Associated Retired Aviation Professionals



Medical examiner to retire after decade of service

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 a successor.

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 phenomenal job."

A year later, officials say, only two of the 230 were unaccounted for.

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. 18.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.


  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved