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Medical Examiners Identify Deceased in Chinook Crash

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2011 – All 30 Americans killed in the Aug. 6 crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in eastern Afghanistan have been identified, officials at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System in Rockville, Md., said today.

Medical examiners were able to identify two of the eight Afghans killed in the crash, said Paul Stone, a spokesman for the medical examiner system. The identification work took place at the port mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

The Chinook probably was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as it attempted to land in Wardak province, officials said. The aircraft carried 17 Navy SEALs, five more Navy special operations personnel, three Air Force special operations personnel, five Army aircrew members, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter. The remains could not be identified in theater.

At Dover, the medical examiner system mobilized all members to aid in identifying the remains, Stone said, and the scientists and doctors in the system used multiple means to ascertain identities.

“The medical examiner’s office used the full complement of forensic techniques to obtain the identifications, to include fingerprint matching, dental examination, radiology and DNA matching,” Stone said. These identification techniques do not exist in theater, he said.

The team finished identification procedures late last night. The then-unidentified remains arrived Aug. 9 at Dover aboard two C-17 transport jets. President Barack Obama and Defense Department leaders met with family members and rendered honors during the dignified transfer of remains from the aircraft to the mortuary. The identification process took about 48 hours.

The identification team consisted of 10 forensic pathologists,; two forensic anthropologists, six odontologists and dentists, three FBI fingerprint experts, three forensic investigators, two histology technicians, and a three-person DNA team, Stone said.

Medical examiners also called on forensic photographers from the Army’s Medical Material Readiness Command and other personnel from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“The reason we were able to identify them so quickly is not because it was easy, but because of the expertise we bring,” Stone said.

The Medical Examiner System has transferred the remains to Air Force Mortuary Affairs, where they will be prepared and returned to the families.

 

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