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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'Not possible' to ID some earthquake victims

'Not possible' to ID some earthquake victims

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
Some Christchurch earthquake victims are too badly injured to be identified, the chief coroner says.

Police estimate 180 people died in last month's quake, with 169 having been named.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said the remainder were the most difficult to positively identify.

All were believed to have died in the collapsed Canterbury Television building.

Body parts were either so small, or so badly damaged, that DNA and dental records may not identify the victim, he said.

In some cases DNA testing could be used, but not to the necessary level of certainty.

It was likely only a "small number" could be named using these methods.

The coroner will meet family and staff from foreign embassies representing international victims in Christchurch tomorrow.

"We need to tell them what we can do on the assumption we can't find anything we can carry out DVI [disaster victim identification] on," he said.

If forensic evidence did not positively identify victims, an inquest would need to be held, possibly in Christchurch in May.

"We will hear what we call circumstantial evidence, like witnesses or CCTV coverage; all those things where we can get to a stage where we can say although we have not recovered anything identifiable, 'they died on this date and the likely cause of death is this'."

This was to give the families some closure at least, the coroner said.

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