Medical Examiners Identify Deceased in Chinook Crash

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 also iden­ti­fied all eight Afghans killed in the inci­dent, said Paul Stone, a spokesman for the med­ical exam­in­er sys­tem, and were able to iden­ti­fy and sep­a­rate out the remains of a mil­i­tary work­ing dog. 

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. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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