Hearse drivers fired for stopping at Dunkin' Donuts on way to veteran's funeral – with flag-draped coffin in car

Inside the hearse was the body of Lt Col Jesse Coleman, who died aged 84

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One of two drivers who stopped a hearse at Dunkin' Donuts en route to a funeral - with the body of a soldier in a flag-draped coffin in the back - has delivered an emotional apology after losing his job.

The pair, who are reportedly brothers, were caught on video on Tuesday by Rob Carpenter, a customer at the New Port Richey branch in Florida.

He told WFLA that he had confronted the men after witnessing them leaving the car parked across two spaces, with the back curtains drawn and the coffin on clear display. He waited until they returned, with coffee and a bag of doughnuts.

"I'm like, 'Is this really a body in here?' and he says, 'Yes,' and I said, 'So you have a dead soldier in the back of your hearse and you're stopping to get coffee?' And he didn't say anything.

"It was very upsetting and very disrespectful to this solider and their family," he added.

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Mr Carpenter said that he was so incensed by the men's apparent lack of remorse at the scene - in addition to the fact that his own father served in the US military - that he sent a video and photographs of the vehicle to the local Veteran's Warriors group, where it was picked up and posted to Facebook.

Lt Col Jesse Coleman, who died aged 84

Inside the hearse was the body of Lt Col Jesse Coleman, who died aged 84. He had served as a soldier on one tour in Korea and two in Vietnam, and was awarded numerous medals, WFLA reported.

His body was being driven from Clearwater’s Veteran’s Funeral Care to his memorial service when the drivers decided to take a detour.

The unnamed man, who was one of two drivers, both in their 70s, responded on Facebook after the photograph went viral. 

After losing their jobs, one of the drivers wrote an impassioned response on Facebook

He said the pair were "sleep-deprived and hungry", adding: "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."

Their boss, Jim Rudolph, told told WFTS-TV in Tampa that he had relieved them of their posts despite a request by Lt Col Coleman’s widow to spare their jobs.

“I think if they had the ability to turn back the day, they’d do things different,” he said.