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Coroner mix-up gets wrong man cremated

Bodies of two victims from a plane crash in Union County were sent to the wrong families.

Updated: 10:06 a.m. Friday, March 26, 2010 | Posted: 11:53 p.m. Thursday, March 25, 2010

By Lynn Hulsey, Staff Writer

DAYTON — The bodies of two men who died in a March 5 plane crash were misidentified by the Montgomery County Coroner’s office in a mix-up that resulted in the wrong man being cremated and the other mistakenly placed in a Pennsylvania mausoleum.

“This has never happened to us before, and I’ve been here since 1975,” said Dr. James Davis, county coroner since 1981 and deputy coroner before that.

“We’re still trying to ascertain the level of error and whose error,” he said.

Arthur Potter, 67, of Greenwood, Ind., and Frank Granato, 55, of Carmel, Ind., were killed when the two-seat plane Potter was piloting crashed in rural Union County on March 5.

Union County Coroner Dr. David Applegate said he initially misidentified the bodies after mixing up their wallets at the scene.

Applegate said they were so badly injured that it was impossible to identify them visually so he sent the bodies to Montgomery County for autopsies and to get positive identification using dental records.

Union County is 75 miles northeast of Dayton.

In Montgomery County, Dr. Lee Lehman, chief deputy coroner, performed the autopsies, and forensic dentist Dr. Mark Armstrong correctly identified each man, said Davis.

But he said no one noticed that Armstrong’s report contradicted the incorrect identification provided by Applegate.

The mistake wasn’t discovered until after the bodies were released to funeral homes on March 10. Several days later, Davis questioned the identifications after one victim’s family member said the coroner returned the wrong person’s personal effects.

“The guy that’s in the mausoleum is the one that was supposed to be cremated,” Davis said.

He said the mistake wouldn’t have happened if the bodies were correctly identified by Applegate. Davis said that his office discovered the error. “I don’t think it’s bad news about our office.”

Potter’s wife, Deborah, declined comment Thursday, and Granato’s wife could not be reached for comment.

Davis described the families as “upset.” Applegate is working with them and legal authorities on arrangements for the men’s remains.

“We hope to make a switch between the body and the ashes. The body’s in Pennsylvania, and the ashes are in Indiana,” said Applegate. “We’ve offered to pay whatever they need.”

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