Six family members of victims of last week’s tanker accident in Lagos have come forward for DNA matching, a Lagos State official told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.
A petrol tanker went up in flames on Otedola Bridge, along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, on June 28, killing 12 people and destroying 54 vehicles.
Richard Somiari, the managing consultant of the centre, said he was disappointed at the low turnout because the figure is less than the number of bodies in the morgue.
“So far, six families have come forward for DNA referencing,” Mr Somiari said.
“We are saying six families because a family DNA sample might be for more than one victim.
“If there really were more people in the fire than the bodies recovered, it’s not obvious because families are not turning up for DNA referencing and we only have six families sample so far and there are 10 bodies in the morgue.”
On Monday, the Lagos State government said it had commissioned a DNA analysis of the remains of those burnt to death.
According to Adeshina Tiamiyu, the General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), samples would be taken from one of the relations of the victims including the father or the mother, child of the victims, siblings or an uncle or aunt.
“When the relations come, samples will be taken; from there, it will be cross-matched with samples taken from the victims. All these are done free of charge, both the treatment and DNA test.”
Speaking on the low turnout, Mr Somiari said with enough DNA material, victims can be identified within two hours using the facility’s rapid DNA machine.
“But because we can only get enough DNA materials from the reference DNA, that is the family, and we would need to process victims’ DNA and isolate it for testing, we cannot use rapid DNA to identify victims of the fire and we have to use classical DNA testing which would take more time than rapid DNA but we are making it as fast and meticulous as possible.
“Families who had given samples yesterday, their DNA are already being processed.
“Although we would not wait for other families to turn up to release our findings on victims identity, victims identification would be much faster if families of probable victims can come forward for DNA referencing.”
Mr Somiari said personal material recovered from the scene such as tooth, bones, shoes or any possible DNA carriers could be used to identify the person through cross-referencing of DNA samples and their families would be certain of their status.
“Emergency agencies might not have been able to identify possible DNA carriers but we have been training them and other public officials, including judicial officials on this, since we commenced operation. We hope when such incidents occur, we would be called for DNA collection for the purpose of identification especially in mass disasters like this.”
Some of the victims’ families who were at the DNA centre on Monday included Joseph Ebenodi, elder brother to a 37-year old victim, William Ebenodi; and Judith Okeh, younger sister to another victim, Maria Okeh 42. Both victims were said to be staff of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi.
Mr Ebenodi told PREMIUM TIMES that he hopes that by giving samples for DNA referencing, they would be able to identify his brother to enable his family know what actually befell him.
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