Death of a U.S. Citizen

Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad

When a U.S. Citizen dies abroad, the Consular Section can help provide information and make arrangements during this difficult time.  Please contact us for assistance.  Below is information about options for disposition of mortal remains. Revised April 2014.

Maximum Period before Burial in Sierra Leone:

When Remains Are Embalmed:  The maximum period allowable before burial when the remains are embalmed is not specified in local regulations.  However, typically embalmed remains are buried within a one-month period from the time of death to allow time for any public viewing and funeral services.

When Remains Are Not Embalmed:  While not strictly enforced by law, local tradition, in most instances, requires remains not embalmed to be buried within 48 hours after death.  However, there are exceptions to the norm when religious or cultural beliefs or the need to transport a body to a distant embalmment facility may delay a planned embalmment.

Embalming is done by a cooling system coupled with formaldehyde infusion, which according to local regulations must be performed within 36 hours of the time of death.   Exceptions occur when the remains must be transported great distances to an available embalmment facility.

Cremation:  Local cremation facilities and urns are available. The requirement for cremation includes:

  1. An application to the Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Youyi Building for the permission to Cremate and Export ashes. Attach a copy of the death certificate to the application. The Ministry of Health should prepare copies for the following: Waterloo Rural District office, LUC Waterloo Police Station, Chief Health Superintendent Clinetown, Customs Office, Freetown & Lungi councilors for area of cremation and the Chief or Headman of the area.
  2. Take Medical Certificate of cause of death to the office of Births & Deaths to obtain Death and Cremation certificate.
  3. Write an application to the Administrator, Rural District Council, Waterloo requesting the permission to cremate and attach the original of the Death and Cremation certificates to the application.
  4. A fee of Le 500,000.00 (five hundred thousand Leones) must be paid to the office of the Rural District Council.
  5. Another application should be sent to the LUC Police in charge of Waterloo Police Station requesting for armed police security around cremation site. Payment for special duties should be paid.
  6. Items for Cremation: 2 of 5 gallon vegetable oil, 4 large tins of Ghee butter, 10 gallons kerosene, 12 pkts incense, 6 dried coconuts, 150 dozen mango wood, 40 small bundles wood, 4 medium size fence stick, 4 yards white poplin material, 2 yards red material and 1 small clay pot.
  7. An amount for those who will assist during cremation, men who will transport wood from entrance and transport for health officers who should be present during cremation.

Contact person at the Indian Embassy: Harish Agnani – 232 76 703 000

Caskets and Containers:  Caskets in new or in single prior use condition are available on short notice.  Local funeral homes report that they shipped remains to the U.S. without problems and were able to meet the various U.S. Customs entry requirements.  The available supply for international shipment includes wooden caskets with zinc lining, and metal caskets, both of which are enclosed in a special casing and wooden crate.

Exportation of Remains: Remains may be exported when fully embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed container.  To facilitate shipment, an application letter, providing the flight and final destination details, should be submitted to the Ministry of Health for the attention of the Director-General, as well as a courtesy copy to the office of the City Council, with the following documents:

  • Official Death Certificate
  • Doctor’s or Funeral Director’s Embalming Certificate

Exportation of Ash Remains:  To export ash remains, the following documents are required by authorities:

  • Official Death Certificate
  • Certificate of Cremation
  • Authorization Certificate from Health Department

Costs: The estimated charges shown below are based on the U.S. dollar to Leone exchange rate of March, 2010.  All costs are approximations and are likely to change.

Local Burial:   US $3000. This estimated fee is for remains that will be buried within a week or less.  It includes collection and transportation of remains, wood casket, funeral home charges (including embalming), administrative fees, cost of burial plot in public cemetery, and brief services.

Cremation and Disposal of Ashes:  There is only one crematorium in Freetown.  It is connected to a Hindu temple.  There is no official fee for the service, but a donation of any amount is requested from the temple.

Embalming: US $2000.  Fees include embalming and doctor’s/funeral director’s certification.

Preparation and Shipment of Remains:   US $5,000.  Fees include embalming, collection of remains, documentation costs, wood casket with zinc lining, and U.S. regulation shipping container.  Add to this the estimated airfreight charges listed below:

Freetown to New York — $3,500
Freetown to Atlanta — $4,000
Freetown to Washington — $4,500

NOTE:  The above cost estimates have been obtained from local airline representatives based on the fees due after the remains have been accepted for shipment according to special cargo rates.  The airlines have informed us that the maximum shippable weight for a casket prepared for shipping is 150 kilos (330 pounds) for an adult.  In Sierra Leone the average urn containing ashes weighs 4 kilos.

Preparation and Shipment of Cremains (Ash Remains):   The estimated shipment/mailing costs listed below:

Estimated Shipment / Mailing Costs
Airfreight Insured Parcel Post APO DHL
Freetown to New York $210 $100 $80 $412
Freetown to Atlanta $210 $100 $80 $412
Freetown to Washington $210 $100 $80 $412

Exhumations and Shipment:  For exhumation, an application letter must be submitted to the Ministry of Health, to the attention of Director-General Medical Services with a copy to the City Council. There is no time period on how long a body has been buried before an exhumation can be done. No fee is charged. Officials of the Ministry of Health do the exhumation.

  • Exhumation within first 20 years — No fee
  • Preparation of exhumed remains within first 20 years — No fee
  • Exhumation after 20 years — No fee
  • Preparation of exhumed remains after 20 years — No fee
  • Shipping container — $2000
  • Air Shipping costs — See above

Remarks:   If the remains need to be transported within Sierra Leone prior to their departure from the capital, there will be additional costs of  $50 – $100 depending on  the distance.  There will also be additional costs should the remains transit an airport outside Sierra Leone and make a stopover en route to the final destination in the United States.

OCSDOCS/SierraLeone/Disposition of Remains 0903


Contacts

When calling Sierra Leone from the U.S., add 011 to the telephone number (For example, 011 232-76-515 000)

Ministry of Health and Sanitation
Medical Services
Attention: Chief Medical Officer
Youyi Building
4th Floor
Tel no: 232 76 658 976/232 33 315 375

Freetown City Council
Attention: Chairman
17 Wallace Johnson Street
Tel no: 232 25 224 209/ 232 25 223 490
Email: fcc@sierratel.sl

Brookfields Community Hospital
11 Kingharman Road
Brookfields
Tel no: 232 76 651 431/232 33 450 704

Blue Shield Hospital
27 Ascension Town Road
Tel no: 232 22 230 133-4/232 22 231 476

Choithram’s Memorial Hospital
Hill Station
Tel no: 232 76 500 223 / 232 76 994 675 / 232 33 317 312 / 232 30 317 312

Connaught Hospital
Lightfoot Boston Street
Tel no: 232 25 500223 / 232 76 606 534

Davidson Nicol Medical Centre
3 Bright Lane, Cole farm
Tel no: 232 33 116 286 / 232 78 998 866 / 232 76 773 311 / 232 77 773 311

Columbia Davies Funeral Services
22C Race Course
Cline Town
Tel no:  232 22 229 580 / 232 22 224 634
Cell no: 232 76 622 408/232 76 613 861

Freetown Funeral Service
Accession Cemetery
Accession Town
Tel no: 232 22 240 464/232 22 230 219
Cell no: 232 76 611 162

Virtues Funeral Home
8B Bolling Street
Kingtom Cemetery
Kingtom
Tel no: 232 33 632 371 / 232 33 632 372 / 232 76 532 371

Indian Temple/ Consulate
126 Wilkinson Road/5 Rawdon Street
Tel no: 232 76 703 000

IPC Travel
22 Siaka Stevens Street
Tel no: 232 22 221481/2/3
Cell no: 232 76 898 888 / 232 76 660 651

SN Brussels Airlines
Access Building
30 Siaka Stevens Street
Tel no: 232 22 236 445-9
Cell no: 232 76 801 492
Fax no: 232 22 236 442

The officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  For more information on the Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.

Additional Resources