A Fort Wayne company that specializes in transporting human remains has volunteered to cover the cost of flying the body of a Boston marathon bombing suspect back to his native Russia.
The offer was made as a show of support for Worcester, Mass., funeral home director Peter Stefan, who hasn't been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said Frank Kaiser, president and CEO of Eagle's Wings Air.
The company's offer was also made with hopes of easing the pain among greater Boston residents by resolving the issue of what to do with Tsarnaev's body.
"We empathize with the residents of Cambridge and surrounding communities and their objections to having Tsarnaev's final resting place located near them," Kaiser said Tuesday in a written statement. "We are offering to facilitate the air transportation of the deceased's remains out of the United States on an international commercial flight at no charge to the funeral home, the city of Cambridge or any taxpayers."
Kaiser made it clear that his company was not extending the offer to Tsarnaev's family and noted that the cost of shipping a person's remains to Russia is upward of $5,000.
"We have not offered to pay that fee on behalf of the family of the deceased," he said.
Kaiser insisted the offer is not a publicity stunt. "We stand ready to offer our assistance at no profit to our company," he said.
The CEO described his company, founded in 2007, as the nation's leader in shipping human remains. He said his business made 15,000 such transports domestically and internationally in 2012.
So far Eagle's Wings Air has not been able to reach Stefan to tell him about the offer. The company issued its statement Tuesday hoping that news of the offer would reach him, Kaiser said.
Tsarnaev's mother has told Stefan she wants the body returned to Russia, but Stefan said he doesn't think Russia will take Tsarnaev's body and he is working on other arrangements.
Stefan said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived, to provide a burial plot. Cambridge has asked him not to do so. The funeral director said he has received burial offers from out-of-state cemeteries.
Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gunbattle with police days after the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was captured.
Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him "un-American" for being willing to handle Tamerlan Tsarnaev's funeral.
"We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No," he said. "We are burying a dead body. That's what we do."
Half a dozen protesters gathered outside the funeral home Sunday holding signs and American flags and chanting "USA!" One sign read: "Do Not Bury Him on U.S. Soil." That same day, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with Stefan to wash and shroud Tsarnaev's body according to Muslim tradition.
Tsarni told reporters he is arranging for Tsarnaev's burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he's lived in the state for the last decade, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.