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Fourth echelon

Florida funeral workers fired after hearse spotted at Dunkin' Donuts

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CLEARWATER, Fla., May 14 (UPI) -- A Florida funeral home said two employees were fired after a video posted online showed a hearse parked unattended with a veteran's body inside while the workers got coffee.

Rob Carpenter, a customer at the Dunkin' Donuts store in New Port Richey, took video when he saw the hearse parked unattended in the store's parking lot with a flag-draped casket inside.

Carpenter shared the video with the Veteran Warriors group on Facebook, which brought the video to the attention of Jim Rudolph, president of Clearwater-based Veterans Funeral Care.

Rudolph said two employees, a driver and a licensed funeral director, were transporting the body of Lt. Col. Jesse Coleman from Clearwater to Lecanto, a nearly 90-mile distance, and they violated protocol when they went into Dunkin' Donuts to buy coffee. Rudolph said at least one employee is supposed to remain with the hearse at all times during restroom breaks, and procedure for veterans' funerals stipulates no stops are to be made at all.

"When a car leaves the funeral home with a flag on it, it's on a stage... and we're in ceremony mode," Rudolph told ABC News. "Going into buy a doughnut with a flag-covered casket in your coach was a terrible lack of judgment."

Rudolph said both employees were fired. He said they were remorseful about the incident.

"I think if they had the ability to turn back the day, they'd do things different," Rudolph told WFTS-TV.

Rudolph said he spoke with Coleman's widow, who was forgiving toward the business and said she did not want the employees to be fired. However, Rudolph said he will not reverse his decision to terminate the employees.

"What could they have been thinking?" Rudolph said. "I haven't got the foggiest idea."



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