Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dana Crash: Bereaved Families Worry over Decomposing Bodies

Families of those killed in the June 3 Dana Air plane crash are now finding it next to impossible to identify the bodies of the passengers and crew of the ill-fated plane deposited at the mortuary of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, as some of the bodies have started decomposing.
It was learnt Monday that some of the bodies are decomposing, despite being embalmed, due to what sources said was the degree of burns suffered by the victims in the plane crash before they died, adding that burnt bodies decay faster.
The situation has pitted the families against the hospital authorities that have now threatened to stop further release of bodies to the relatives until all the DNA tests are done and results released to properly link the bodies with those trying to claim them.
Monday, some of the families who have been besieging LASUTH since the incident had difficulty identifying their loved ones.
Sources told THISDAY that the hospital authorities were considering suspending the release of bodies until all the DNA donors submit their samples.
Although seven more bodies were supposed to be released Monday to the families, only two were released, a situation that infuriated some of the families who accused the hospital management of favouritism.
Debunking claims that they were holding up the release of the bodies, the hospital management said it was waiting for the families to show up for the four new bodies that were cleared Monday for collection.
Explaining the reason for the confusion, LASUTH Chief Medical Examiner, Consultant Pathologist and Forensic Medicine, Prof John Obafunwa, said the victims’ families had mistaken the serial numbers given on identification of the bodies to be their tag numbers and not due to decomposition as being claimed.
While lamenting the confusion caused by the victims’ families, he said it slowed down his work because he had to explain several times over to victims’ families what he and his team were doing.
The relatives, however, blamed the government and LASUTH authorities for the new twist, saying that the decomposition of the bodies could have been avoided if the bodies had been released to them on identification last week.
“We have identified our sister’s body the first time, they did not release it to us; we came back a second time to identify her, yet we could not collect her body. Today (Monday), we were asked to identify her again, but it is difficult because the bodies they brought are decaying and difficult to recognise,” one of the bereaved family members said.
“Why did they not put a tag on her, the two times we identified her? They are playing games with us,” he added.
Some victims’ relatives questioned the reason for the secrecy in naming the six bodies that had been released so far, insinuating that the action was not in good faith.
Another bereaved relative who simply identified himself as Femi, lamented the harrowing experience they were being made to go through.
He said: “From the pace of the clearance process, it would be safe to assume that we would not be able to collect the corpse of my brother tomorrow so we have to change the burial date that we had already agreed on.
“If not for anything, I think the hospital should have gone out of their way to make the process a bit easier for us instead of this demand for one form or the other to be filled.”
Another angry relative of the deceased accused the hospital management of giving preferential treatment to some families.
The Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof David Oke, appealed to the victims’ relatives to calm down pledging that things would eventually be sorted out in the long run.
He also denied allegations of favouritism in the release of the bodies

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