Fired hearse driver responds after doughnut shop stop

The drivers of this hearse were fired after they stopped to get coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in New Port Richey, Florida, leaving a veteran’s flag-draped coffin in the parking lot. (Photo/Rob Carpenter)

NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (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 hearse drivers gave his side of the story in a Facebook post. (WFLA Photo)
(WFLA Photo)

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.

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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