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Mortuary director who ordered a fallen Thonotosassa sergeant's arm sawed off resigns

Two years ago, Air Force mortuary director Quinton Keel ordered embalmers to saw off a fallen Thonotosassa soldier's arm, according to a federal investigation. This week, Keel resigned.

Sgt. Daniel Angus' parents are glad Keel no longer works at the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, but they wish he had been fired, a family spokesman said.

They hope Keel will face criminal charges.

"In the end, nothing will change what happened," the family's attorney, Mark O'Brien, said in an email. "This is not a happy day for them."

Kathy and William Angus buried their son in January 2010.

Within a few weeks after the funeral— and without their knowledge — federal officials launched an investigation.

After 18 months, a report concluded the U.S. Air Force had mishandled troops remains and sawed off a part of Sgt. Angus' left arm without his family's permission.

Though the Air Force declared an end to such practices, it concluded the military did nothing wrong by removing part of the sergeant's arm so he could be dressed in uniform.

Angus' parents and sister disagreed. It was mutilation, they thought, and it led to a fresh wave of grief, O'Brien said in December.

Angus graduated from Armwood High and joined the military in 2003. He was twice deployed to Iraq and was serving his third tour, this time in Afghanistan, when, on Jan. 24, 2010, a blast killed him and two other Marines in the Helmand province.

He was 28. He left a young daughter, a wife, his parents and a sister.

Angus' limbs were devastated by the blast. His face was recognizable, but the remains of his upper left arm were fused perpendicular to his torso.

Still, in February 2010, Keel decided his body was viewable and should be dressed in military attire.

Several others at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary disagreed. They said the body was not viewable and should be encased in a full cloth wrap, according to a report from the Office of Special Counsel, a federal watchdog agency.

But Keel insisted, according to the report. An embalmer who refused took his complaints to supervisors.

Though the Angus family hopes for criminal charges, O'Brien doesn't think that's likely. Either way, the family doesn't plan to file a lawsuit.

"This is not about lawsuits," the attorney said. "It is about right and wrong."

Keel's resignation, he said, was a step in that direction.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Mortuary director who ordered a fallen Thonotosassa sergeant's arm sawed off resigns 03/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 12:00am]
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