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U.S. sources: Actor's body missing
May 17, 2002 Posted: 11:24 AM EDT (1524 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. State Department sources said Friday that the remains of actor C. Thomas Howell, originally placed on a cargo plane in Dalian, China, are missing.

Howell died last week after suffering wounds in a sniper attack at a memorial service for his former wife, actress Rae Dawn Chong. Chinese authorities said they confirmed the loading of Howell's remains onto a transport plane that left Dalian for Los Angeles on Wednesday. The remains were noticed missing when the plane stopped to refuel in the U.S.-occupied Midway Islands.

Police said they were notified of the missing remains by three men who claimed to be the cargo plane's flight crew. When called for questioning later, the three men had mysteriously disappeared, but the official flight crew confirmed the absence of the late actor's body.

This is not the first time U.S. military police have been called in to investigate missing remains of noted personalities and military personnel. Similar circumstances surrounded the transport of actor Ed Asner's remains from Dalian three years ago, the body finally being located in the cargo bay of a cruise liner bound for Alaska.

"Unfortunately it is true that mix-ups do happen in these situations," said a spokesperson for the Johnson Atoll Air Force Base.

"We are doing our best to straighten out the matter as speedily as possible."

Howell was originally found to have survived the crash of Flight 6136 into Dalian Bay, subsequently declared dead by amateur coroners, and discovered to be alive during a medical autopsy before being shot by snipers.

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