Monday, 24 August 2015

11 now feared dead in English Airshow crash

Officials have now identified 11 people who are “highly likely to have died” after a military jet crashed into a busy roadway during an airshow in southern England on Saturday.

The military jet crashed into a busy main road, killing seven people and injuring more than a dozen others, police said.

The Hawker Hunter fighter jet, which was participating in the Shoreham Airshow near Brighton in southern England, hit several vehicles on a nearby road as it crashed Saturday afternoon.

“The numbers are increasing,” said Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry in a statement on Sunday. “We are at 11 that are believed to have been killed as a result of the crash, but we do know that number is likely to rise.”

According to the BBC, an additional 14 people were injured in the crash, including the plane’s pilot, who remains in critical condition.

Witnesses told local TV that the jet appeared to have crashed when it failed to pull out of a loop manoeuvre.

West Sussex Police said seven died at the scene and one patient with life-threatening injuries was taken to the hospital.

The doomed plane would not be removed from the road until Monday, at which point more bodies could be discovered in the crash site, which is more than 350 yards long, Barry said. All of the victims were on the roadway, and no one attending the airshow was injured, according to Sussex police.

Captain Mike Vivian, the former chief flight operations inspector for the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority, stressed that airshows are highly regulated in Britain, but said “lessons can be learned and will be learned” from the disaster.

“In any accident like this where there is tragedy, it’s right to review it in detail,” Vivian told the BBC.

Monday 24 August 2015

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The Morewood Lake Disaster

It was set to be an exceptional year in the ice business.

Early the year before, George Shand and Everett Lesure had purchased the Morewood Lake Ice Co., and were anxious to increase profitability in their second season. The company, which in the peak of winter employed up to 150 men, had been seeing steady yields of 20,000 tons of ice harvested annually from the Morewood Lake site, but Shand and Lasure announced this year they expected to raise the output to 25,000 tons.

Advertisements for laborers had been put out, and everything was in place to begin when workers arrived on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 29, 1910, for the first day of the season. Minor equipment issues had been worked out in advance so that work could begin promptly. In particular, a valve on the boiler used to run the conveyor carrying the ice up to the ice houses had been acting up the day prior, but had been replaced, and appeared to be in good working order at 9 that morning.

At 9:20, about 40 of the men headed down from the boiler house toward the lake while many of the rest remained clustered around it.

At 9:30, the boiler house erupted into the sky in a short, horrifying whirlwind, hurling debris and bodies hundreds of yards in every direction.

The explosion could be heard throughout the city; the blast shook windows downtown on South Street, a mile away. Men working around Morewood, even up to 400 yards from the house found themselves dodging a rain of pipes and steel pieces. One 200 pound piece of boiler was flung north of the ice house, over 500 feet away; another 300-pound hunk flew almost twice that distance, cutting off the tops of five trees on the south of the house at a height of 30 feet.

Twelve men were killed instantly, and many more grievously injured. Accounts from those workers who survived the blast describe a bloody, chaotic scene, confronted in every direction by dismembered and mangled remnants of men strewn in every direction, dozens of others writhing in pain and shock wherever they'd been thrown by the blast force or struck by large pieces of searing debris.

Still badly stunned, those on the scene who escaped major injury rushed to help those more badly wounded.

James Hovey and his 19-year-old son James Jr. had just left the boiler house minutes before the blast, and sped back to help pull several men from the debris closer to the house.

"The cries and groans of the injured were terrible," recalled George Stevens, another surviving worker. "The one who seemed to be crying the loudest and who seemed to be in most pain lay under some wreckage almost directly under the place where the boiler had stood. I yelled for someone to assist me, as I believed that if a man could holler as loud as this man was doing that there was hopes for him."

Together with some other men, Stevens cleared the man from the wreckage and got him on one of the first runs to the hospital. First on the scene to carry injured was the sleigh from Pittsfield Fire Department's central station, followed by the police ambulance and two hospital ambulances carrying them in several trips to the House of Mercy. One man died en route, and two more passed from their wounds shortly after reaching the hospital.

After the injured were all removed, the ambulances and sleigh began making trips to the funeral parlors with the remains, many of them unidentified. Some were virtually unidentifiable, mere torsos of men where heads and extremities had been disintegrated in the pure ferocity of the blast.

The final death toll was 17 men, with another 20 injured, in what was immediately dubbed "the worst tragedy in the history of Pittsfield."

"Upon many of these dead faces was an expression of horror," wrote an unnamed reporter for the Berkshire Evening Eagle. "So gruesome was the scene that the spectators turned their heads away from the awful sight."

Among the "spectators" rapidly amassing as word spread were many families of the 150 men who'd been working at the Morewood site that day, desperate to ascertain if their sons and husbands were among the dead and injured.

Police Chief White was early on the scene as well, and downtown Mayor William MacGinnis heard reports of the severity of the accident. MacInnis, who was in the last week of his term, called in Mayor-elect Kelton Miller and met with U.S. Sen. Winthrop Crane, who'd driven over from Dalton on hearing the news. The mayor promptly called for an emergency meeting of the City Council for 3 that afternoon to discuss ways the city could assist families in this crisis.

"The awful accident of this morning saddens and shocks every Pittsfield heart in this, the greatest calamity that our city has ever experienced," said MacInnis in a statement to the press. "All our citizens will unite to assist in every possible way to lighten the blow."

Working with the council and other local leaders, a relief fund was established, and within the next two days would swell to more than $7,000 with donations.

In addition to a desire for city appropriation to pay for funeral costs, councilmen and aldermen at the emergency meeting called for action to be taken regarding boiler inspection, expressing sharp criticism of the state regulatory authorities.

An official inquest was set for Tuesday, but the process of assigning blame for the incident was already underway. The pressure valve for the boiler was found among the wreckage of the tragedy, and it was determined that the equipment wasn't registering the correct pressure and so failed to blow off when it should have.

By Friday, it emerged that engineer William Dunn and machinist George Ward had voiced concerns about the boiler the evening prior to the blow out. A previous malfunctioning valve had just been replaced, but Dunn had faced difficulties getting the new valve to work correctly on the aging boiler apparatus.

He was still nervous about it the morning of the accident, his son John recalled later, after tearfully helping police identify pieces of his father at the scene.

More accounts came at the inquest, where witnesses said Dunn had continued to have trouble with sudden jumps in the steam guage indicator, up until just a few minutes before the explosion. Everett Lesure, co-owner, testified denying the claim that he had told Dunn to screw down the compression screw on the valve.

The final finding of the inquest released by Judge Charles Burke found that this compression screw and the failure of the gauge to register properly, which was attributed to rust from the boiler pipes clogging the gauge, were the ultimate cause of the explosion.

"I do not find that the unlawful act of any person now alive contributed to the death of said decedents," Burke wrote, laying responsibility for any negligence vaguely with the deceased engineer and machinist.

One of the results of Burke's written ruling from the inquest, and of the accident itself, is the adoption of stricter regulations by the state Board of Boiler Rules later that year.

Though exonerated of any corporate wrongdoing and fully insured for the damage to the plant, the Morewood Lake Ice Co. itself never really recovered from the affair, and by the following winter Shand and Lesure sold the operation to the investors incorporated as the Melville Ice Co.

The new company soon moved its ice operations away from Morewood Lake to Goodrich Pond. Business took a turn when one of their largest buyers, the local brewery, closed with the onset of alcohol prohibition. Finally, the growing distribution over the next few years of the electric refrigerator first developed in 1913 rendered traditional ice harvesting obsolete. By the 1930s, the industry was all but nonexistent in New England.

The Springfield Republican called the Morewood Lake explosion one of "the most serious that has ever occurred in Western Massachusetts." In lives lost, it surpasses the devastation of other major regional catastrophes of the period, for instance the 13 workers who perished in the Central Shaft accident on the Hoosac Tunnel in 1867, the 7 killed in East Lee floods from the Mud Pond Dam break in 1886, and even the Boston & Albany RR wreck that claimed 15 lives at Chester in 1893.

Amidst the changing landscape of local manufacturing in the century that followed, sporadic industrial accidents were still seen — two General Electric employees killed in an explosion at their Pittsfield plastics plant in 1957, for example — but never since has the region seen an incident of such gruesome destruction.

Monday 24 August 2015

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Typhoon Ineng leaves 35 dead, missing

The death toll from the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Ineng (Goni) went up to 15 yesterday as rescuers retrieved four bodies among the miners trapped in a landslide in Mankayan, Benguet.

The Benguet provincial police said a total of 18 people went missing in the landslide, which happened early Saturday.

Two more remain missing in Bontoc, Mountain Province since Friday.

Seven shanties used by miners at Sitio Elizabeth in Barangay Taneg were reportedly washed out by a flood and buried by a landslide at around 3 a.m.

Cordillera regional police spokesperson Superintendent Cherry Fajardo said one body was retrieved Saturday night.

Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) – Cordillera regional director Andrew Alex Uy said the body was fished out from the Basig River while the remains of three others were retrieved yesterday morning.

The OCD–Cordillera said combined search and rescue teams from the police, local government units, civilian volunteers and personnel from the Gold Rich Expo International Mining Co. and Lepanto Mines were still conducting search and rescue operations as of yesterday afternoon. Officials said poor visibility and heavy rains posed challenges to the rescue teams.

The OCD Cordillera report and the landslide incident in Mankayan were not yet reflected on the official report released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) yesterday morning.

The NDRRMC said the heavy rains and winds brought by Ineng also left ten people injured.

A total of 32,648 persons or 7,470 families were evacuated in the Ilocos region, Cagayan, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), and Cordillera.

Of the evacuees, 3,327 families or 13,159 persons were inside evacuation centers while 4,143 families or 19,489 individuals were with their families or friends.

The amount of agriculture and infrastructure damage caused by Ineng hit P125.82 million. Infrastructure sustained P121.48 million in damage while agriculture damage reached P3.34 million.

The typhoon also damaged 197 houses in Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan.

A total of 36 roads, six bridges, and one spillway have been affected in Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Central Luzon, Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) and Cordillera.

Ilocos Norte was placed under a state of calamity as several areas in the province remained impassable due to flooding.

Despite the heavy rainfall, the regional disaster council in Central Luzon gave assurance that the dams in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan are not at spilling level.

This developed as the state weather bureau lifted all storm warning signals in Northern Luzon areas yesterday as Ineng moved further away from the country.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the eye of Ineng was spotted at 430 kilometers northeast of Basco, Batanes, packing winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 170 kph.

The typhoon slightly accelerated from 13 kph on Saturday to 15 kph yesterday as it moved north northeast toward Japan, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

If it maintains its present speed and track, Ineng was forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) last night or early this morning.

However, monsoon rains would still prevail over the western section of Luzon, including Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Ilocos region, the Cordillera and the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and the islands of Calayan and Babuyan in the next few days, PAGASA said.

The weather bureau warned residents of these areas against possible flashfloods and landslides.

It also continued to warn fisher folk against venturing out to the seaboards of Northern and Central Luzon and the western and southern seaboards of Southern Luzon due to big waves generated by Ineng and the southwest monsoon.

Monday 24 August 2015

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Malaysia finds 24 more bodies of human trafficking victims

Malaysian police say they have found another 24 bodies of suspected human trafficking victims in jungles bordering Thailand.

Authorities in May said they discovered 139 suspected graves in abandoned jungle camps in northern Perlis state, a remote area bordering Thailand that trafficking syndicates used as a transit point.

Most were believed to be from Burma's persecuted Rohingya minority and impoverished migrants from Bangladesh.

Another 24 bodies have been discovered this week, in addition to 106 bodies found earlier, police said. The bodies have been sent for post-mortem examinations, they added.

The discoveries in northern Malaysia followed similar revelations earlier in May in Thailand, where police unearthed 36 bodies from shallow graves in seven abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border.

The discoveries have exposed hidden networks of jungle camps run by human smugglers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families.

Most of the victims were part of a wave of people who fled their homelands to reach countries such as Malaysia, where they hoped to find work or live freely.

Human rights groups and activists say the area along the Thai-Malaysia border has been used for years to smuggle migrants and refugees, including Rohingya Muslims.

In many cases, they pay human smugglers thousands of pounds for passage but are instead held for weeks or months while traffickers extort more money from their families.

Rights groups say some have been beaten to death, and the Associated Press has documented other cases in which people have been enslaved on fishing boats.

Monday 24 August 2015

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Technology a vital tool in identifying remains

It’s almost a cliché: The body was identified through dental records. That has been easier said than done in B.C. until very recently and is still problematic in much of Canada.

Canadian authorities have been far less precise about describing teeth than TV detective shows lead people to believe.

At one point, U.S. authorities suggested they were wary about counting Canadians as possibilities for unidentified human remains south of the border because there was such a big gap in relevant information available about their teeth, said RCMP Cpl. Kelly Risling of the B.C. Police Missing Persons Centre.

“Dental data is a cornerstone of forensic identification,” yet dental codes in Canada recorded just three kinds of teeth: missing, virgin and treated. The treatment was not specified as to the seven surfaces of each tooth, he said.

“I wanted to see our dental coding system brought more into the future, and now dental fillings are identified,” Risling said.

“Instead of just three codes, you’re going to have up to seven codes associated with a tooth,” he said.

Moreover, there is now a B.C. policy that dental information on missing persons must be sent to the provincial dental database and that dental profiles of unidentified remains be searchable.

“So we’re able to match forensically the dental information of missing persons against unidentified bodies. We’re the only province in Canada right now that’s doing that,” Risling said. “The system that was settled on was a system called Plass Data DVI. Plass is a disaster-victim identification software that is utilized by INTERPOL. It was utilized in Thailand following the tsunami in 2005. It proved to be an effective method of cataloguing dental information in order to perform dental comparisons with the goal of ultimately obtaining the identification of various unidentified victims.”

Dr. Tom Routledge, team leader for the British Columbia Forensic Odontology Response Team, or BC-FORT, is manager of the database, created about four years ago.

Outside B.C., there is no national repository of dental information, meaning that if the name of the dentist of a missing person or unidentified remains is not known, there isn’t much that can be done by way of identification.

Dr. David Sweet, a dentistry professor at the University of British Columbia affiliated with INTERPOL and head of the Bureau of Legal Dentistry, has also been enlisted to help identify missing persons.

According to UBC’s website, the bureau is “the first and only laboratory in North America that is dedicated to full-time forensic dentistry research, casework and graduate teaching.”

B.C. dentists are no longer left to guess what police need in terms of dental records.

Police now attend dental offices armed with a letter signed from Sweet asking them to turn over all original dental information to the officer in front of them. That data is couriered to BC-FORT and entered into the Provincial Dental Data Base for comparison against available dental profiles of unidentified bodies throughout B.C., Risling said. No dental information is entered on the Canadian Police Information Centre or the U.S. National Crime Information Centtre without the data having been reviewed and transcribed by BC-FORT, he said.

Dental records are just one improvement B.C. has made in recent years to speed identification of human remains.

The coroners service requires very particular types of information to make a targeted comparison. Risling developed an intake process that is now RCMP policy and is followed — but not mandated — by the majority of municipal police forces.

The intake policy states that every person missing for more than 90 days must have intake information submitted to the B.C. Police Missing Persons Centre. That includes a Missing Persons Query form — an MPQ — that contains date of birth, next of kin and considerable physical information, including surgeries, scars, tattoos, dental work and surgical implants that could be identified via manufacturers’ serial numbers.

Prior to the policy’s implementation, it was suggested that within 90 days, police get family DNA, ideally taken from a parent, and dental information. Now these efforts are a must-do, and Risling stressed that DNA collected for identification purposes will not be used in criminal cases. Families of missing persons sometimes don’t realize the significance of providing this information, he said.

“They’re often reluctant and sometimes they downright refuse when it comes to providing such things as DNA.” Without such information, authorities must keep open files that could have been eliminated via DNA matches.

“And that is a huge draw on our resources,” Risling said.

Also mandatory are the GPS co-ordinates of where the missing person was last seen.

The MPQ for Kenneth Boseley was submitted this year.

Using the physical profile of the body and the geographical co-ordinates of View Street, the Identification and Disaster Response Unit of the B.C. Coroners Service was able to draw a correlation between a missing person’s last-known location and the location of this deceased individual, who was then identified, Risling said.

Fingerprints ultimately led to the identification, with considerable credit going to Det. Const. Chantal Ziegler, the Victoria police investigator working with the team.

After the correlation was drawn between the remains and the missing person, it was a matter of hunting down Boseley’s fingerprints that had been on file with local authorities.

One change Risling is still working on: Seeing whether a specialist can modify photos of an unidentified dead person sufficiently to warrant release to the public in the interest of identification.

Monday 24 August 2015

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12 bodies identified after Papua plane crash

Indonesian police have identified 12 of the victims of a Trigana Air crash in its Papua region a week ago.

The identification of victims from a Trigana Air plane that crashed last week in Pegunungan Bintang regency, Papua, has encountered slow progress as the National Police’s Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) team, as of the weekend, had only managed to identify 12 out of the 54 bodies recovered from the crash site. “Three days after starting the [victim] identification process, our team has managed to identify 12 victims. Four bodies were identified on the first day, three on the second day and five on the third day,” the police’s Medical Center head Brig. Gen. Arthur Tampi said on Saturday. The Trigana Air ATR 42 plane was on its way from Sentani Airport in Jayapura at 2:22 p.m. on Sunday and was supposed to have arrived at Oksibil Airport at 3:15 p.m. The bodies of all 54 people aboard were finally found on Tuesday in a forested area near Oksibil city of Papua. Arthur said the DVI team, as of the weekend, had tried to identify 27 bodies but had only managed to name 12 of them. He said the DNA samples taken from the first 15 unidentified bodies had also been sent to the National Police’s Forensic Laboratory in Jakarta for DNA testing. “Many of the bodies were severely burned, making it difficult for us to identify them using primary or secondary data,” he said. 54 people were killed when the plane crashed in bad weather near Oksibil on a flight from Jayapura.

The Jakarta Post reports the police Disaster Victim Identification team has handed over the bodies of the 12 victims to their families.

The police say the poor condition of the bodies which were burned is hampering identification.

Monday 24 August 2015

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