MAHONING VALLEY Funeral directors aid at crash sites

About 25 directors make up the Ohio Funeral Directors Mortuary Response Team.
STRUTHERS -- Funeral home directors from the Mahoning Valley, who deal with death each workday, are using their experience to assist investigators at the crash sites in Pennsylvania and New York.
Anthony Quahliero, funeral home director for Clemente Funeral Homes, is one of three local men who spent about four days in Somerset, Pa., where United flight 93 crashed during a terrorist attack Sept. 11. He's among about 25 directors from around the state who make up the Ohio Funeral Directors Mortuary Response Team and do a job few others could stomach.
Their job: These men and women respond to disasters around the state and country to assist coroners on site and at temporary morgues. They help recover and identify bodies and handle embalming, coffining and transporting cadavers.
"We can assist the coroners because we deal with this on a daily basis," said Quahliero. "We see the worst of the worst."
He said members of the response team also come in handy because they require little training and can usually walk away from a disaster site with fewer mental scars than many people.
"It's not enjoyable, what you see and do," he admitted. But there is a certain amount of satisfaction gained from helping the country, he said.
Quahliero spent two days working in the morgue and the rest of the time at the crash site.
He would not comment on the tasks of identifying body parts or other carnage he witnessed. Funeral directors have an unspoken rule; they keep quiet about the dead, whether in a funeral home or at a disaster site, out of respect.
He did admit that working in Pennsylvania was sort of surreal.
"Probably, reality set in when we finally posted the names in the office processing part of the morgue," he said.
Investigator: Thomas Pappas, an investigator for the Mahoning County coroner, was called in by the local director's organization, on behalf of the Somerset County coroner, to assist at the crash site.
Pappas, who also would not comment on conditions at the site, said he gathered supplies, compiled information and passed that information to proper authorities.
"I'm happy that I was able to render assistance," he said.

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