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Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 Crashes into Alps

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After the terrible crash which killed 150 people in the French Alps on 24th March 2015, forensic investigators are left with the very difficult task of identifying the victims using DNA testing. The team are working round the clock to identify the Germanwings crash victims and Michael Tsokos the Leading forensic expert has told of his horrifying task, saying: “These images will never go out of my head.” Because of the speed at which the plane hit the mountain the authorities said very early on that there were no survivors.The size of wreckage found in the ravine at most has been the size of a small car as the impact happened at 400kmph. 400 to 600 pieces of the remains of 150 people have been found but not a single whole body, police revealed. The difficulty in even reaching the crash site has been made easier by building a road as search teams have been abseiling in and helicopters going back and forth to the nearby town of Seynes at the rate of about 60 trips per day. Col Patrick Touron of the local gendarmerie has said that once DNA samples have been taken, they are then sent on to another lab outside Paris and at this location they are compared to samples taken from family members.

Suicidal Tendencies of Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz

The crash happened as a result of co-pilot Andreas Lubitzlocking his Captain out whilst the Captain went to the toilet, taking control of the plane and nose-diving into the mountain at top speed. The sounds of the Captain trying to break down the cockpit door as he tried to get back in are heard on a recording of the final terrifying moments of the flight. The breathing of Lubitz can be heard in the cockpit but he says nothing. Police have found torn up sick notes from two doctors saying he was not fit to flyin the co-pilot’sapartment and there have also been media reports of retina damage to his eyes, a personal crisis and suicidal tendencies. The most likely explanation is that faced with the impending loss of his career and the recent personal crisis combined with a history of depression and the likelihood he was suffering from a serious psychosomatic disorder led Andreas Lubitz to carry out this horrific act of suicide.

Rescue Teams and DNA Testing Samples for Disaster Victim Identification

There are reported to be up to 600 body parts to be examined and matched to DNA samples taken from relatives – a method known as disaster victim identification is used in such instances of mass catastrophes. Police have asked victim’s relatives for DNA samples in the hope of matching them against the remains of the material objects and body parts at the crash site.Some items that have been recovered such as toothbrushes, razors and hair have been collected at the scene and handed over to scientists in Barcelona. There is also a mobile laboratory at Seyne-les-Alpes, the closest village to the site,which is used for some DNA testing whilst the rest is sent to Paris. Some fifteen teams of two people, a forensic expert and a mountain rescue expert are working at the zone. There are psychologists also at the site to support the rescue teams. Families have been asked if they remember what their loved ones were wearing when they boarded the flight and if they had any distinguishing marks such as tattoos. Each found body part is photographed and scanned in 3D before being taken to the morgue, identified and then placed in a closed coffin ready for burial. Michael Tsokos told Bild the German newspaper that; ‘specially trained forensic scientists take fingerprint samples of fingers and palms and everything is photographed. Every little piece of fabric will be tested for DNA so that it can be assigned to a particular person.’ He has told the press that within three weeks up to 95% of all victims should be identified. The recovery of body parts has to be finished by April 8th otherwise the decomposition will make DNA testing and identification impossible. It is a sad end for these families who lost members in this horrific crash and one can only hope that by being there all together they can draw on some kind of mutual support between them as a group to help them grieve with each other and find a way out of such suffering together.

Further reading of cases of mass fatalities 

Graves holding the bodies of approximately 400 soldiers who died fighting in the Battle of Fromelles in 1916 will be exhumed by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) in order to find out more about the soldiers lives and identities. Click here to read the full story.

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