Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Missing Persons: Arizona has more than almost all other states

Stuart Somershoe's work as a Phoenix police detective is among the most painstaking and, often, gruesome, law enforcement work there is.

“I work cold cases for missing and unidentified persons in the Phoenix Police Department,” Somershoe says. Some of Somershoe’s cases date back to the 1940s, and in many of them, it’s unlikely the person is still alive.

In his and other police agencies in Arizona, it's a labor unlike others and unlike in other states. For Arizona has more sets of unidentified remains and, per capita, missing persons cases than almost any other state, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, known as NamUs.

The state has more than 1,300 unidentified sets of human remains. Somershoe said two factors are at work in that statistic: proximity to the border means a lot of under-prepared people try to walk across hundreds of miles through dangerous terrain to get to the U.S.; and related to it is the desert environment, which can quickly obliterate evidence.

“We are a desert and that’s very bad for bodies," Somershoe said. "Bodies disintegrate; bodies decompose a lot quicker than in other states, so it’s harder to identify them when they’re just bones or fragments. When you get outside of the metropolitan area of Phoenix you’re basically in open desert. It’s kind of like our version of the Pacific Ocean. It’s very easy to lose things.”

But the problem isn’t only in Arizona. Nationally, a minimum estimated 40,000 sets of human remains are unidentified, NamUs figures show. “They call it the nation’s silent mass disaster," Somershoe said. "And the reason those numbers (are uncertain) ... is because it’s based on self-reporting from medical examiners, coroners across the country, and we know there’s a lot more out there than what are being reported to us." The relatively recent formation of NamUs created a national database of missing persons and is used extensively by many police agencies trying to connect remains in their charge with reports of those missing along with other potential clues.

"NamUs has been around officially since 2007," said Todd Matthews, the database's case management director. "It went online with the unidentified persons database and in 2009 after a beta trial we added the missing persons database.”

While the database isn’t the first to match DNA of unidentified remains to missing persons, it is the first that allows the families of those missing to take part in the search for their loved ones," Matthews said.

“I think we’ve always needed a national database," he said. "You know, you have city, county, state. We needed something that would go beyond those boundaries, because often a person is missing from New York and possibly found in Connecticut and unless those two compare notes," which is what the database allows.

Federal statistics show about 2000 missing persons in Arizona, among an estimated 80,000 nationwide. Somershoe said the NamUs database could be the key to solving these cases.

“Law enforcement is sometimes very poor in communicating with other jurisdictions," he said. "We tend to hoard information. If my missing person ended up dead in a different county, I may not know about that. If they ended up in another state I may not know about that.

"NAMus is great because we’re all invited into the same room and say, 'Hey, I have pieces of the puzzle; you have pieces of the puzzle, let’s try and resolve these'."

Somershoe said he has solved nearly a dozen cases, some decades old, with the help of NamUs. He said the more information is added to the system, the likelier that thousands of families who are missing loved ones will finally have closure.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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AirAsia flight QZ8501: Two more body parts identified

Two more body parts from a passenger of the crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 were identified on Tuesday, bringing the total number of identified remains to 96 so far, East Java Police said.

The Disaster Victim Identification team leader, Sr. Com. Budiyono, said the police received the two body parts, a left leg and hip, from South Sulawesi on Monday night and identified them as belonging to Yonatan Sebastian, 13, from Malang, East Java.

"The identification was based on the DNA test," Budiyono said in Surabaya as quoted by Antara news agency, adding that the body parts were still being kept at the Bhayangkara Hospital.

The hospital has received 104 remains and body parts from QZ8501, which crashed into the Java Sea in December last year with 162 people aboard.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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India bus crash kills 10 in Madhya Pradesh

At least 10 people have been killed after the bus they were travelling in plunged down a deep gorge in India's central state of Madhya Pradesh.

Reports say the driver lost control of the bus in the Machalia Ghat area of Dhar district, some 125km (77 miles) from the city of Indore late on Monday.

More than 30 people were injured in the incident.

The toll is feared to be rising as rescuers are looking for more bodies and injured in the jungle below the hills.

Primary police investigations suggested that the bus plunged into the gorge after losing balance on the hilly road in Rajgarh area of Dhar, around 125 km from Indore city.

Bus crashes are common in India and often caused by poorly maintained vehicles, overloading and bad driving.

In the latest incident, the bus, carrying more than 40 passengers, was travelling to Rajasthan from Indore when the incident occurred.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed on the country's roads and the numbers have been rising steadily - nearly 140,000 people were killed in 2013, according to the government's National Crime Records Bureau.

Last year, a bus plunged into a gorge in the western state of Maharashtra killing 27 people.

In October 2013, at least 42 people died after the luxury bus they were travelling in caught fire in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Police say a collision with a culvert ignited the fuel tank of the vehicle.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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11 Bayelsa politicians to receive mass burial

The 11 women leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that died in a motor accident along the East-West Road on Valentine’s Day will be given a mass burial.

Checks by Daily Sun revealed that the decision to conduct mass burial for them had been made known to their families.

It was gathered that the decision was reached following the inability to identify the corpses.

According to investigation, the victims were burnt beyond recognition and former deputy governor and coordinator of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), Bayelsa State chapter, Werinipire Seibarugu and other officials of TAN, who visited the scene immediately after the accident collected the ashes and unidentified skulls of the victims to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa.

Some of the family members who had earlier rejected the suggestion of a mass burial later agreed when it was explained that the possibility of conducting a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test would take up to six months.

Mr. Ambrose Ayebakuro, the 33 years old son of the late former House of Assembly member, Ruby Benjamin, confirmed that the family had been contacted on the decision to hold a mass burial for the deceased.

Also speaking, Mr. Mathew Utolor, the Chief Accountant of Bayelsa Broadcasting Corporation and husband of one of the deceased, Mrs Ayakpo Utolor, said it was sad that the families could not identify the bodies of the victims.

Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, has described as tragic the accident that claimed the lives of 11 female politicians from Bayelsa State last Saturday.

Kuku, who is also chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, said in a statement signed by his Special Assistant and head of Media, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, that he received the news with shock and a deep feeling of loss.

Commiserating with the Bayelsa State Government, the people of the state and the families of the deceased, he said their demise was very painful and a huge loss to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family in the state.

“This sad news came at a time everyone was working hard to ensure victory for the PDP in the general elections. The positive contribution of these women to the development of their state and the country will be sorely missed, ”he said.

Kuku prayed God to comfort their families and grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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