A New Disaster Victim Identification Management Strategy Targeting 'Below Identification-Threshold' Cases: Experiences from the Boxing Day Tsunami
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The international disaster victim identification (DVI) response to the Boxing Day tsunami, led by the Royal Thai Police in Phuket, Thailand, was one of the largest and most complex in DVI history. Referred to as the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification operation, the group comprised a multi-national, multi-agency, and multi-disciplinary team. The traditional DVI approach proved successful in identifying a large number of victims quickly. However, the team struggled to identify certain victims due to incomplete or poor quality ante-mortem and post-mortem data. In response to these challenges, a new 'near-threshold' DVI management strategy was implemented to target presumptive identifications and improve operational efficiency. The strategy was implemented by the DNA Team, therefore DNA kinship matches that just failed to reach the reporting threshold of 99.9% were prioritized, however the same approach could be taken by targeting, for example, cases with partial fingerprint matches. The presumptive DNA identifications were progressively filtered through the Investigation, Dental and Fingerprint Teams to add additional information necessary to either strengthen or conclusively exclude the identification. Over a five-month period 111 victims from ten countries were identified using this targeted approach. The new identifications comprised 87 adults, 24 children and included 97 Thai locals. New data from the Fingerprint Team established nearly 60% of the total near-threshold identifications and the combined DNA/Physical method was responsible for over 30%. Implementing the new strategy, targeting near-threshold cases, had positive management implications. The process initiated additional ante-mortem information collections, and established a much-needed, distinct ''end-point'' for unresolved cases.
Forensic Science International
Medical Biotechnology not elsewhere classified