By Wole Oyebade
Lagos, Health Minister Pledge Speedy Forensic Results, Support, 52 Bodies Set For Release
TENSION mounted yesterday as families and friends of Sunday’s DANA Air crash victims protested delay in having bodies of their loved ones released for burial.
No fewer than 300 family members have besieged a mortuary at the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja since Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has begun the process of giving out 52 identifiable bodies of a total 153 recovered from the crash scene.
Some of the bodies were scheduled for release yesterday evening and today, after autopsies have been concluded on them.
Forensic and DNA studies have started on 97 unidentifiable burnt bodies, with samples flown abroad and results expected in the next four to six weeks.
Relatives of the deceased fumed against what they described as “government’s bureaucracy” in conducting autopsies and DNA studies and alleged “uncoordinated” way of relating with the bereaved families.
During a condolence interaction by officials of the Federal and State Ministries of Health, led by Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, yesterday, the bereaved families decried the delay and having to wait for no fewer than four weeks before they take custody of the bodies.
No amount of pleas and forensic rationale from Chukwu, Lagos Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris and Chief Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa could appease their charged emotions.
One of the relations declared: “We are stressed and distressed, and these people (government’s officials) are making things worse by delaying the corpses. We don’t know what they are doing, in the name of compensation. No amount of compensation will heal our wounds. Release our bodies to us and stop prolonging this misery,” he said.
The unnamed person lost his wife in the ill-fate Dana Air Sunday crash.
Health Minister, Chukwu, explained that delays had to do with the need for proper identification of bodies and their recipients, to avoid future trauma.
“There is the need to identify the bodies, otherwise people will claim the wrong bodies and it could even cause more psychological trauma when you find out that the body that you buried was not actually the body of the person you thought.
“This is because two-thirds of these bodies had been charred beyond ordinary recognition and DNA test and analysis have become important in ensuring investigation,” he said.
Addressing reporters after visits to DANA Crisis Centre LASUTH, crash site at Iju-Ishaga and Mainland Hospital all in Lagos, Chukwu said the state government and LASUTH authority had noted issues connected with information and counseling and are in the process of addressing them “to ensure that most of the relations under severe emotional trauma have it reduced as humanly as possible.”
He assured that the Federal government would give necessary support.
“We are also going to work with the state government to see how we can reduce the duration in which we are expecting the DNA results. It may need more logistics support and expenses; we will look at it as responsible government and see how we can reduce the time. Those that can immediately be identified let them be identified.”
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