DANA AIR CRASH: Forensic pathologies unable to identify 97 bodies

The Lagos State government has said that 97 bodies out of the total 149 corpses evacuated from the scene of last Sunday’s air disaster in Lagos are unidentifiable.

The bodies have been deposited at the Mainland hospital mortuary while the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) mortuary housed the 52 that were able to be identified.

Ade Ipaye, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, during a world press conference in Lagos, Wednesday, pleaded with relatives of the deceased to be patient.

“12 autopsies were done yesterday, 18 today, and we are going to continue that way for the bodies that are identifiable,” said Mr. Ipaye, who represented the Lagos State government. 

“We are saying that the relatives should bear with us but each of the victims – both those on the flight and those on the ground – will be compensated,” Mr. Ipaye added.

The press conference, which began more than two hours late and aimed at clearing the air on the reason bodies have been withheld at the mortuary, was billed to be attended by representatives of the Lagos state government, Dana Air, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the insurers of Dana Air.

The NCAA was, however, conspicuously absent. 

The organizers said that issues relating to the cause of the accident would not be addressed as investigation is still ongoing.

“We are working with Dana representatives to make sure that the bodies are properly identified. The burns made a large number unidentifiable,” said Mr. Ipaye.

“Out of the 97 charred remains, as much as possible, people responsible for evacuation have tried to put each body and parts in one body bag. 

“We have body parts which are not attached to any body and it’s possible for one body bag to have more than one body,” said Mr. Ipaye. 

“With regards to the bodies that are not identifiable, clearly we need to take tissue samples and create a file… 

“In future, any relative coming forward and be able to match this record will be entitled to compensation,” Mr. Ipaye added.

John Obafunwa, the Chief Medical Examiner at LASUTH, opined that bodies that had been identified should be released to their families. 

“By Friday, we’ll be talking about cases that are outside this place (the unidentifiable bodies),” said Dr. Obafunwa, a forensic pathologist. 

“The whole process, we should finish in less than two weeks and, by the grace of God, we won’t disappoint,” he added. 

Francis Ogboro, a director at Dana Air, assured that families of dead victims would be compensated. 

“The company is fully insured. It is a group of insurance companies that has been brought together to insure the company,” said Mr. Ogboro, who initially appeared ill prepared for the conference as he could not answer most of the questions thrown at him. 

“I do not have all their names (the insurance companies).  

“I came to attend meeting not realizing there’s a press conference. I will make available all the information that you need,” he said. 

Mr. Ogboro, after receiving a text message, named Lloyds of London as the name of the consortium of insurance companies that insured Dana Air. 

Yomi Osikoya, a representative of Lloyds of London, said that claims will be processed “as fast as possible but it is subject to certain legal processes.”

“Our instruction is to discuss with every individual claimant to prove their claim.

“In an accident leading to death, a ceiling of liability is imposed. 

“You are requested to pay $30,000 within 30 days. The substantive law says $100,000 for death or injury,” said Mr. Osikoya, a lawyer.

Mr. Osikoya also said that the companies’ underwriters have instructed a Nigerian surveyor to visit the site of the crash, evaluate the value of the buildings, and make a comprehensive report to Dana Air.

“It is on the basis of this report that compensation will be paid,” said Mr. Osikoya.

“Letters will be written to individual relations and in due course, we’ll keep the ball rolling.” 

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