The pathologist appeared before the coroner in Lagos on Friday.
The bodies of the pilot, co-pilot, and nine passengers of the ill fated Dana plane that crashed in Lagos on June 3, last year, were “possibly” completely incinerated during the incident.
Captain Peter Waxtan, an American Pilot; and Mahendra Singh Rathore, the Indian co-pilot; flew the Dana MD-83 from Abuja before it crashed into a residential building at Iju, an overcrowded Lagos suburb.
While testifying at the resumed Coroner’s inquest, in Lagos on Friday; Professor John Obafunwa stated that the bodies of the pilots and nine others could not be identified after an “exhaustive” DNA analysis.
“I had a manifest of 153 people, we were able to identify 144 from the manifest,” said Mr. Obafunwa, the Chief Medical Examiner at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.
“At the end of the day, we were unable to identify the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot. The bodies of other crew members were identified,” Mr. Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist, said.
“It’s either these individuals did not board the plane or some other individuals used their names to come on board.
“It is also possible that they were completely incinerated,” he added.
No Dana witness
After two previous adjournments, the coroner’s inquest into the cause of the Dana air mishap continued with Dr. Obafunwa and Dana Air’s Flight Operations Officer, Oscar Wilson, billed to testify.
However, for the second consecutive time, Dana Air’s witness failed to attend the inquest.
Atinuke Oladejo, a legal representative of the airline, said that their client is “not prepared” to testify.
“The witness is absent in court presently because we got wind of the today’s sitting late yesterday at about 6.30 p.m.,” Ms. Oladejo said.
Dr. Obafunwa’s exhibits – 148 victims’ post mortem reports and 170 compact discs bearing images of recovered bodies – were admitted in evidence by the coroner.
The medical examiner also detailed the processes his team undertook in identifying the bodies.
“We had 152 body bags. When we completed the DNA analysis, we discovered that two bodies were in two different bags, so we went down from 152 to 150,” said Dr. Obafunwa.
“Some of the body tissues and human parts we had to link them up using DNA. At the end of the day, we had 148 bodies,” he added.
Disturbing images of the plane crash victims – charred bodies and decomposed body parts – were shown via a projector in the court.
Three-quarter of recovered bodies were burnt beyond recognition.
Requests for the compact discs to be shared to counsels, along with copies of the post mortem report, were turned down by Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner.
“Apply (for the compact disc) to the coroner if you are not satisfied (with the post mortem report). That will even be with the consent of victims’ family members,” said Mr. Komolafe.
Dr. Obafunwa also said that they were able to identify three bodies that were allegedly on the ground, as well as bodies of 15 foreign nationals.
“We identified 147 of the 150 bodies. We were able to assemble body parts belonging to one person, giving us a total of 148,” Dr. Obafunwa said.
“At this point, there are three unidentified remains at the mortuary. One of them fairly well preserved, two are charred bodies,” he added.
Mr. Komolafe adjourned till January 25 for a cross examination of Dr. Obafunwa by other counsels as well as for Dana Air’s witness to appear.