Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Morgue Faces Challenge of Identifying Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Morgue Faces Challenge of Identifying Victims

Article excerpt

As the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building yielded its dead, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office faced a challenge few could have imagined before Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, only 13 victims had been positively identified. Working with bomb blast victims is tedious at best and could take several more days, possibly up to three weeks, said Ray Blakeney, director of operations.

The staff, which normally numbers 30, has been increased to more than 100, with help from federal agencies such as the FBI, as well as employees from offices around the state. Staff members include four forensic pathologists and three forensic dentists plus X-ray technicians, doctors and radiologists.

Clyde Snow, a noted forensic anthropologist, is among the experts involved, Blakeney said. Snow, of Norman, Okla., has helped investigate several high-profile serial murders and in 1985 identified the body of Nazi fugitive Josef Mengele in Brazil.

The morgue's storage capacity has been supplemented with four refrigerated trailer trucks, including two at the bomb site and two at the state office, Blakeney said. The storage facilities are kept at 40 degrees.

The staff is working 12-hour shifts, he said, but "it's a painstaking, tedious operation." The process is especially difficult because it includes criminal investigation as well as identification, Blakeney said.

"We have to take into consideration that evidence is very important in catching the individuals that may be responsible for this. As a result of that, we are very protective about the examination of the bodies and the collection of the evidence that may be on or around the body. It has slowed us down some." Some evidence has been found, he said, such as "shrapnel, wires, plastic."

***** Processing Stations

After bodies are removed from the wreckage, they are passed through several stations, Blakeney said. …

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