Identifying crash victims expected to take time
Riska Rahman and Ivany Atina Arby
The Jakarta Post
The National Police have begun to collect antemortem data and DNA samples from relatives of the victims of the crash of Lion Air flight JT610, but the process is moving at a snail’s pace because they have only body parts to work with.
Head of the National Police Medical and Health Center, Brig. Gen. Arthur Tampi, said the disaster victim identification (DVI) team had collected 147 DNA samples and 185 items of antemortem data from the families of the victims as of Tuesday night.
“We hope that the families can be patient during these times, as it is harder for us to identify body parts rather than intact remains,” he said during a press conference at the hospital, adding that the process of matching DNA samples with the remains took longer than the usual fingerprint and visual identification.
Hundreds of grieving relatives have come to the hospital to have their data collected.
One of the relatives, Samsuri, 60, wiped tears from his face as he entered the identification center set up at Kramatjati Police Hospital in East Jakarta on Tuesday.
He, along with his wife and grandchildren, was hoping to identify his daughter, Liany. Liany, her husband Herman and 5-year-old son Kenzo were traveling back to their hometown of Sungailiat, Bangka regency, Bangka Belitung Islands, located about 30 kilometers from Pangkalpinang, after attending a friend’s wedding last weekend.
“We’re still waiting for Liany’s other two children to bring the documentation needed to identify our daughter and her family,” he told The Jakarta Post. One of Liany’s other children is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Malaysia, while the other is still in high school in Bangka.
The police have asked families of the victims of the Lion Air flight from Jakarta to Pangkalpinang, to report to the hospital bringing documentation such as school diplomas, dental and medical records and the victims’ personal effects such as toothbrushes, combs or items of clothing.
They also asked for parents, siblings or children of the victims to come to the identification center to provide DNA samples. These samples, along with the victims’ DNA and personal effects, will be used to help identify the bodies of the victims.
Arthur explained that the police needed at least four days to process each DNA sample. They also need at least four to eight days to match the samples they receive with each body part retrieved by the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).
Some 900 personnel have been scouring the Java Sea and they have so far collected 37 body bags containing body parts and debris from the plane in the last two days, according to Basarnas operations deputy Nugroho Budi Wiryanto. Twenty-four of those bags had been taken to the hospital on Monday and were being examined by the police.
Senior Basarnas official Didi Hamzar said that among the 900 personnel were 50 divers from Basarnas, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the search and rescue team, aboard four multipurpose research vessels, 35 smaller vessels and two helicopters, had only been able to find bits of wreckage, several body parts and personal belongings believed to belong to passengers.
Meanwhile, the fuselage of the plane, in which most of the victims are thought to be, has not been located.
Col. Salim of the Jakarta Navy Base said the crew of the KRI Rigel, taking part in the search, had yet to find any major pieces of wreckage. Meanwhile, passenger remains are believed to have drifted further away from the likely scene of the crash.
Basarnas, therefore, expanded the search area on Tuesday to 10 nautical miles from the place where the plane is thought to have gone down, from the previous 5 nautical miles on Monday. The agency has also called on fishermen who find anything related to the plane crash to report their findings to a post set up in Tanjung Karawang, West Java.
— David Cessare, an intern at The Jakarta Post, contributed to the story from KRI Rigel in the Java Sea, off Karawang.
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