9/11 Victim Remains Sent to Landfill

Independent committee investigated the Pentagon's management of partial, incinerated remains

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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FILE - This Aug. 9, 2011, shows the closed gates at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The Pentagon revealed on Tuesday that some partial, incinerated remains of 9/11 victims that could not be identified were sent to a landfill. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)

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The Pentagon revealed on Tuesday that some partial, incinerated remains of 9/11 victims that could not be identified were sent to a landfill.

The number of victims involved was unclear, but the report said the remains were from people killed when a terrorist-hijacked airliner struck the Pentagon, killing 184 people, and another crashed in Shanksville, Pa., killing 40, in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Several San Diegans were on the flights that crashed on Sept. 11. Among those, Chandler Keller was aboard American Airlines flight 77 on his way to Los Angeles. His mother, Kathy Keller told NBC 7 San Diego that her son’s body was identified immediately following the attack.

There was no indication that remains from the attack on the World Trade Center in New York were involved.

The report was by an independent committee that had been asked to examine practices at the military's mortuary at Dover, Del., the first stopping point for fallen troops coming home from war overseas.

The panel was formed after an investigation last November revealed "gross mismanagement" at the Dover facility and found that body parts had been lost on two occasions.

After that investigation, news reports revealed that some cremated partial remains of at least 274 American war dead were dumped in a Virginia landfill until a policy change halted the practice in 2008.

Tuesday's report was explaining the old policy, which, it said, "began shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when several portions of remains from the Pentagon attack and the Shanksville, Pa., crash site could not be tested or identified."

The partial remains were cremated, then given to a biomedical waste disposal contractor who put the remains in containers and incinerated those. The residual matter was then taken to a landfill, the report said.

"We don't think it should have happened," the committee chairman, retired Gen. John Abizaid, told a Pentagon news conference called to release the Dover report.

It was unclear whether families of the 9/11 victims were aware remains had gone to contractors and then to the landfill. In the case of the war dead, officials previously said that the remains were given to contractors only in cases where families had already buried their loved ones and had informed the military that they did not want to be told if additional remains were later found.

Such a development was not uncommon as the wars wore on in Iraq and Afghanistan, where bombs were the main insurgent weapon.

In the case of 9/11 victims, some remains from the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed, were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on the first anniversary of the attacks. Three caskets of unidentified remains from the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in a field in Shanksville, Pa., were buried there last September.
 

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