This story is courtesy of our sister station WFLA in Tampa, FL.
FLORIDA (WFLA) – A stop for coffee and doughnuts on the way to a funeral cost two hearse drivers their jobs.
A New Port Richey Dunkin’ Donuts patron caught the unusual stop on camera. He confronted the driver and then sent his video and photos to a local veteran’s group. From that point, the story went viral.
Rob Carpenter said the video and the driver’s reaction shocked him.
“This is a soldier who fought for us and defended the country for us, and you’re gonna stop for coffee,” said Carpenter, the son of a veteran. “You could have stopped before you’d even taken this human being to his resting spot.”
The two drivers, both in their 70s, were taking the solider from Clearwater to a church in Crystal River for his funeral. Protocol prohibits hearse drivers from making any stops or from leaving the vehicle’s back curtains open.
In the case of an emergency, curtains should be drawn and the car should pull over, out of view of the public, the drivers’ boss, Jim Rudolph or Veteran’s Funeral Care in Clearwater, said.
Rudolph fired the pair. “These are great guys, but I need confidence that it’s being done right,” he said. “What we do here is special, and I am responsible, solely, for a properly conducted military funeral … I have to have total confidence when people are going out the door.”
One of the drivers took to Facebook and explained they were sleep-deprived and hungry. He said they meant no disrespect.
“Our lives are now ruined because of a donut. God forgive me. We now have no means of income because of a donut and being human,” the driver said.
Here’s the full Facebook post:
“Mr. Cummings, I have dedcated all of my life to serving our Veterans and their families. ON that morning we had gotten up at 4:00 to be able to be on the road by 7, we had not eaten since the night before and not knowing what traffic we would encounter we were on our way. we realized that we would ot be able to eat again until after 3 p.m. and i decided to run in to the donut shop to grab a donut to tide us over. i was not in the shop more that 3 minutes and the attendant could attest to that. That vehicle was nevere PARKED there or left unattended. the htor was running with my brother there and i junkped back into the car and we mwere on opur way again. Never ever was it intended to cause detrimento to the family we were serving or disrespect to a fallen hero. Our lives are now ruined because of a donut God forgive me. we now have no means of income because of a donut and being human”
News of the unusual stop and firing lit up the Facebook. Opinions are strong and mixed.
“Disgraceful behavior, worthy of termination without pay,” one person wrote on News Channel 8’s Facebook page.
Another wrote, “I agree it was a bad call, but they were remorseful, didn’t mean disrespect. They screwed up. Move on.”
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