Medical examiner to retire after decade of service
BY RICK BRAND
Newsday Staff Writer
July 14, 2006
Dr. Charles Wetli is retiring after more than a decade
as Suffolk's chief medical examiner, a role in which he
became best known for the Herculean task of identifying
the 230 victims of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.
Wetli, 63, of Huntington, will step down from his
$147,100-a-year post Aug. 14, according to Kevin Law,
chief deputy county executive, who said the county is
forming a blue-ribbon committee to search nationally for
Wetli did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer praised Wetli.
"He's always been a professional, acted impartially and
with integrity," he said. "He leaves a legacy that will
be difficult to replace."
Flight 800 presented major problems for the medical
examiner's office, given the condition of bodies. "In
some disasters where identifications are made rapidly,
they have died of asphyxiation, there have not been
mutilations, the faces were intact, they had wallets,"
Wetli said, shortly after the crash, when 101 bodies had
been recovered. "As far as I'm concerned my staff did a
A year later, officials say, only two of the 230 were
Wetli came to Long Island after working for 18 years in
Dade County, Fla., as chief deputy medical examiner.
There, in 1994, he made local headlines when he handled
the autopsy of an Elmont teen who died after drinking
too much on a Caribbean cruise ship.
The search committee will include Dormer, Suffolk County
District Attorney Thomas Spota, Health Commissioner Dr.
Brian Harper, County Attorney Christine Malafi and a
legislative representative, Law said. He gave no
timetable for completion.
Wetli's retirement comes as county officials seek a new
public works commissioner and a deputy. Current public
works Commissioner Charles Bartha announced his
retirement a month ago and is due to leave office Aug.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.