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UNIONTOWN (KDKA) — A family mourning the loss of a loved one had their grief compounded by an incident at a Fayette County cemetery.

Paul Bowers, 93, died this past Tuesday at Uniontown Hospital.

He was from Masontown and was part of what’s often called America’s “Greatest Generation.” He grew up during the Depression and fought in World War II.

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On Friday, at Lafayette Memorial Park in Fayette County, Bower’s grieving family was stunned at what happened at his gravesite following the funeral.

“The straps that [cemetery workers] had, they should have had different equipment to put the casket down into the ground and what they did… The straps slipped off. My dad’s casket went sideways,” Bowers’ daughter, Lisa McKahan, told KDKA News.

There was a casket-lowering devise on a truck near the gravesite. Why it was not used by cemetery workers is not clear.

The McKahan family believes two cemetery workers, who they say never apologized about the mishap, both appeared very young and inexperienced.

“[The casket] fell on its side into the vault, damaged the casket, cracked the lining of the vault. They just flipped it over, pushed it down in, like nothing happened. We had to actually stop them from doing what they were doing,” Bowers’ son-in-law, Bryan McKahan, said.

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According to McKahan, workers told them that they could return in an hour or so to remove the damaged casket from the gravesite, but McKahan, his son-in-laws and nephews removed the casket themselves, put it in a nearby hearse, and it was driven back to a local funeral home.

The funeral director said the casket would be replaced.

Late Friday night, a cemetery spokesman said in a written statement, “Lafayette Memorial Park’s mission is to help families memorialize every life with dignity, and we regret the rare equipment failure that occurred in this instance. We are working closely with the family and have scheduled a burial for Monday.”

“My dad was a good man. He loved everybody. He should have never been disrespected in that manner. Every time we go to visit the grave, that’s all we’re going to think about now,” Lisa McKahan said.

Ralph Iannotti