September 11 victims' remains dumped in landfill
Published 29/02/2012 | 07:59
Remains of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks were dumped in a landfill, it has emerged.
Small traces of the bodies of people killed when The Pentagon was attacked and when a plane crash-landed in Pennsylvania were transported there after being incinerated, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The practice was disclosed by an inquiry ordered by Leon Panetta, the US secretary of defence, into previous reports that the remains of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were similarly dumped.
It "began shortly after September 11, 2001, when several portions of remains from the Pentagon attack and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site could not be tested or identified," the report said.
The inquiry found that the remains were cremated before being "placed in sealed containers that were provided to a biomedical waste disposal contractor" by staff at the mortuary at Dover Air Force base.
The contractor incinerated the contents, and Dover officials assumed "nothing remained", the report said. However, a query by managers led to the discovery that "residual material" was being dumped.
"This practice ceased in 2008," the report said, adding "such portions of remains are now cremated and retired at sea". Senior officials expressed regret over the practice yesterday but did not apologise.
Michael Donley, the Secretary of the Air Force, said that remains had been handled to "perhaps a less than ideal, or by some measures even an inappropriate standard".
"Prior practices were not appropriate," Mr Donley told a press conference. "We have taken steps since 2008 to move forward to another place".
In all 184 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon. Ronald Hemenway, a 37-year-old Navy technician who was killed on the ground floor, was one five whose remains were never recovered after the attacks.
His father Robert last night said that the latest revelation was one to add to a "weary list" of struggles for victims' families a decade after the attacks. "I can't say it doesn't bother me," he told the Daily Telegraph. "There's so many battles to fight here I don't know if I can handle any more,"
Other unidentified victims included Ronald Golinkski, a retired army colonel, and Dana Falkenberg, a three-year-old who died with her father, mother, and older sister Zoe on-board American Flight 77.
However Wallace Miller, the coroner who processed the remains of all 40 victims and the four hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field, furiously rejected the findings.
"I don't care who told you – it didn't happen," Mr Miller told The Telegraph. "No remains were taken to Dover".
Mr Miller said three coffins containing all unidentified remains were buried at the site last year.
"Apart from that, I had four sets of remains that were the terrorists', and the FBI has them," he said.
The US Air Force previously admitted that the partial remains of at least 274 service members who passed through the mortuary at Dover – to where all US troops killed overseas are returned – ended up in the landfill site between 2003 and 2008.