Thursday, 22 November 2012

Photo exhibit of tattoos honors Station fire victims, survivors

With the 10-year anniversary of the Station Nightclub fire just a few months away, Paula McLaughlin of Chepachet decided it’s the perfect time for her to pay tribute to those impacted by the blaze, which claimed the lives of 100 people Feb. 20, 2003.

McLaughlin lost her brother Michael Hoogasian and her sister-in-law Sandy. They were Cranston residents. To help keep their memories alive, McLaughlin is organizing “Station Ink,” a photographic exhibition of memorial tattoos in honor of the victims and survivors. It will be held at the Pawtucket Armory at 172 Exchange Street from Feb. 15 to 17, with the opening reception to be held Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.

The event is free, but donations will be accepted. All funds raised will be donated to The Station Fire Memorial Fund.

“The 10-year anniversary is incredibly painful because it was like it was yesterday,” she said. “You wake up and it’s 10 years later, but it feels the same. It’s always incredibly sad and I think this year it’s going to be even more sad. We’re all broken because of it. This event is for everyone and it will give us all something to look forward to instead of focusing on that number.”

While McLaughlin is working out details for the event, she has already found nearly 30 participants with tribute tattoos willing to be photographed. However, she is hoping for additional contributors.

“I need to get more people to these photo shoots, so I hope they will come and get their tattoos photographed,” she said.

Anyone with an honorary tattoo who would like to be photographed should contact McLaughlin at to schedule a photo session. Sessions are taking place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Dec. 15 and Dec. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Armory, on the second floor. There is no charge for the photo shoot, but participants will be asked to sign a photo release to be part of the show.

“The response has been amazing so far,” McLaughlin said, noting that she held a private photo shoot a few weeks ago with loved ones. “I have friends that I met in my support group, so I invited them and my brother’s friends.”

The tattoos, she said, don’t have to blatantly indicate that they are affiliated with the fire, but it is OK if they do. For example, McLaughlin has two tribute tattoos: one is a small sacred heart on the underside of her wrist, while the other is a cross on her lower back that features butterflies, as well as ribbons that read, “Mike and Sandy Forever,” as the couple was inseparable.

She got the cross tattoo a few months after the fire, and had the sacred heart done two years ago on Michael’s birthday, Feb. 13.

But she’s not the only one with the sacred heart tattoo, as Michael’s friends and Sandy’s brothers all got the symbol inked on their bodies within days of the fire in honor of Michael and Sandy.

The meaning of the cross is a bit different from the heart. Michael and Sandy had gotten married shortly before they passed, with McLaughlin serving as Sandy’s maid-of-honor. As a design director for a jewelry company, McLaughlin crafted Michael a cross, which he wore as a pin during the ceremony, and made Sandy a set of rosary beads that the bride carried as she went down the aisle.

Getting tattoos, said McLaughlin, is a means to cope with loss of them. As the years go by, she’s met people who have three, four and even five memorial tattoos.

“It’s hard to explain – you feel like you have to do something for the person that you can’t be with anymore and that’s why I did it,” she said. “I never had a tattoo before, but seeing everyone come together and hearing more and more stories about it I said, ‘I have to do something. I want to photograph all of these tattoos and do an exhibit.’”

McLaughlin opted on a tattoo theme because Michael and Sandy each had tattoos. In fact, while Michael was getting tattooed just hours before the fire at a now closed tattoo parlor, Doors of Perception, Jack Russell walked in. Russell was the lead singer of Great White, the band that was performing at the Station when the fire ignited. They chatted with Russell, and he ended up inviting them to the show. He promised to put them on the VIP list, which he did.

“My brother called me and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. I’m so excited. I met Jack Russell,’” said McLaughlin. “I said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to that show. It’s late and it’s cold.’ He said, ‘No, I have to go.’ Everybody Jack Russell invited died, [including] Skott Greene, [who owned Doors of Perception, which was] on Quaker Lane. Because my brother went and got a tattoo that night is basically why he and Sandy are not here.”

The photos in the exhibit will be accompanied by personal stories, such as McLaughlin’s, explaining the meaning of the tattoos.

“I have everybody writing their stories down,” she said. “It’s emotional and touching, so I want everybody to know these stories. It’s going to be a really nice memorial.”

Another touching thing for McLaughlin is the fact that photographer John Pitocco, a friend of McLaughlin’s, is volunteering his time for the exhibition. Additionally, Debbie Whitehouse, who runs the Pawtucket Armory, donated space for the event.

“It’s beautiful and it’s just been renovated,” McLaughlin said of the Armory. “She gave me the main hall for this exhibit and I want to fill it with photographs. People are just coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘Whatever you want, I’ll do.’ I have an enormous amount of people volunteering.”

In conjunction with the show, McLaughlin and Pitocco are planning an accompanying book. She hopes that anyone who cannot attend the event will find comfort by looking through its pages. Proceeds from the book will also be donated to the fund.

“Some people have six to 10 pictures and we’re not going to be able to put all those pictures in the show, so we’re going to make a book,” she said.

For now, she’s hoping a memorial will soon be erected on the West Warwick land the Station formerly resided on, and is working diligently on the exhibit.

Also, getting another tattoo is on her agenda.

“I plan on getting more,” McLaughlin said. “I might even add to the one on my wrist.”

Thursday 22 november 2012,76930?category_id=4&town_id=1&sub_type=stories

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Special cell in police stations to track missing persons

Rising number of cases involving missing person cases in the city has jolted the city police into some action. After a recent review meeting at the police commissionerate, it has been decided to create a separate cell at every police station to focus on missing and absconding persons.

More than 2,000 people who have been missing have remained untraced since 2007 . Police pegged the figure at 2,013 since 2007. As many as 6,600 people (2,914 men and 3,686 women) went missing since 2007. Nonetheless, the police have managed to trace 4,588 of them- 1,965 men and 2,623 women.

Officials said that while the process of tracing missing persons is continuous given that they may be traced later, they also say that most of the times, relatives do not tell the police if their missing family member is found. This, they said, made it the figures of untraced persons seem large.

Over the past few months, the city has had some shocks about missing persons . On September 17, 2012, a person lodged a complaint with Ambad police station that his 15-year-old daughter was missing. The girl could not be traced and it was suspected that a police constable was involved. The policeman lodged a complaint of kidnapping at the same police station.

The police constable - Guru Gangurde, son of sitting corporator Jyoti Gangurde, and attached to the police head quarters, is missing since then. The girl's father has alleged that the constable has kidnapped his daughter, according to the Ambad Police.

On September 11, another 17-year-old girl was reported missing from the Satpur industrial area. When her father approached the Gangapur Police Station to lodge a complaint, he accused his son-in-law of abducting his daughter as she was younger than the wife of the accused. Subsequently, the police laid a trap and picked them up from Trimbakeshwar area.

In August, a 32-year-old woman Sunanda Mule went missing and was found dead near Manmad two days later. District Superintendent of Police Pravin Padwal informed that there is a constant interaction between the rural and city police about sharing data of missing people as well as unidentified dead bodies.

Recently, the city police commissionerate has formed special cells at the police stations to focus on missing people in their respective jurisdiction.

A team comprising a police sub inspector and four others, are looking at the instances of missing persons. Police Inspector SS Kolhe of the Adgaon police station informed that recently that as per the guidelines by the commissioner and deputy commissioner of police, a team of five personnel at police stations would be focussing on missing and absconding people.

Every fortnight, a review meeting will be conducted at the police commissionerate to gauge the progress in cases of missing and absconding persons.

Senior officials said that earlier the work on such cases was not as focussed as it will be now after certain officers and personnel have been decided specifically for such cases.

Thursday 22 November 2012

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Two more bodies mixed up in Polish plane disaster

Polish officials say two more victims of the country's April 2010 air crash that killed 96 people including Polish president Lech Kaczynski have been wrongly identified and buried.

Four other victims had previously been subject to mix-ups, including Poland's last leader-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, who was reburied earlier this month.

It emerged on Wednesday the remains of two priests had been mixed up and they had been interred in each other's graves, one at Warsaw's soaring Temple of Divine Providence and the other at a cemetery in the capital's suburb of Pyry.

Fresh DNA tests confirmed their identities after their remains were exhumed last week.

The remains of Anna Walentynowicz, Poland's communist Solidarity trade union heroine, were reburied in September after they were found to have been misidentified.

The presidential jet went down on April 10, 2010, as it tried to land in thick fog at the airport in Smolensk, western Russia, ahead of a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet slaying of thousands of Polish prisoners of war.

All 96 people on board died, and while pilot error and the ageing facilities at the airport were ruled to be behind the crash, many in Poland give credence to conspiracy theories blaming age-old foe Moscow.

In October, Polish prosecutors denied reports that traces of explosives had been found in the wreckage.

Thursday 22 November 2012

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New Zealand DNA tests on helicopter crash bodies

DNA tests are being carried out on a body believed to be that of a British tourist who has been missing since a New Zealand helicopter crash in 2004.

The wreckage was found in Fiordland, a remote area of the country's South Island, on Wednesday, police confirmed.

The helicopter was carrying Hannah Timings, 28, from Cheltenham, and local pilot Campbell Montgomerie, 27.

A two-week search in January 2004 failed to turn up any sign of the Hughes 500 aircraft. Difficult conditions

Nearly nine years later, a helicopter pilot spotted the wreckage which police have confirmed was the missing helicopter.

Seven specialist police staff and two alpine cliff rescue team members today completed a scene examination of the remote site where the wreckage of the helicopter was located near Humboldt Creek in Fiordland.

Southland police were advised that the wreckage had been seen from the air by people on a sightseeing flight over the Hollyford Valley.

New Zealand Police said Ms Timings and Mr Montgomerie were still to be formally identified and the families of both individuals had been told of the discovery.

Police said the helicopter had been en route from Howden Hut to Milford Sound in difficult weather conditions when it lost radio contact with the Milford radio tower.

Insp Olaf Jensen said their thoughts were with the families and they hoped the discovery of the wreckage would bring some closure for them.

The helicopter's wreckage is spread across a large area in rugged terrain. The weather in the area is good.

In April 2004, more than 200 people gathered at a village hall in Toddington, near Cheltenham, for a memorial service.

Ms Timings, who worked as a furniture buyer in London, had been on a three-month trip to New Zealand.

Thursday 22 November 2012

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Japan: forensic dentistry to get boost, college training enhancement urged

The health ministry has decided to include forensic dentistry questions in a 2014 national dentistry examination to enhance use of the highly accurate method used to identify many bodies after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The law covering the investigation of causes of death and identification of bodies, which stipulates the dentists' involvement in identification work, will be enacted in April.

To prepare for it, the Japan Dental Association aims to increase annual training sessions for dentists to learn the skills.

To identify bodies, dentists check past dental work among other information gleaned from the deceased's teeth and record the data on forms that are compared to medical charts recorded while the person was alive.

As dentists use photographs and X-rays to examine teeth and dental work, bodies can be identified with a high degree of accuracy.

After last year's disaster, 15,576 victims, or 98.6 percent of the bodies found, were identified by the end of August. Of them, 1,213 bodies, or nearly 10 percent, were identified using forensic dentistry techniques.

So far, there have been at least 13 cases in which bodies have been reportedly misidentified and returned to the wrong families. In these cases, the bodies were identified solely based on their appearance, with no dental identification carried out.

Excluding natural disasters, about 1,200 unidentified bodies are found in the nation every year. Dental associations in each prefecture and Tokyo have a committee that cooperates with police in identifying bodies.

However, in many prefectures, each committee has only several dozen members, and of the about 100,000 registered dentists in the country, only a fraction have experience with dental forensics.

Dental identification requires experience and special knowledge--for instance, that it is difficult to open the mouth of a deceased person, or that the teeth of burned bodies are badly damaged.

However, only six of 29 dental universities or universities with dentistry departments in the nation offer dental forensics courses.

In the national dentistry examination set to take place in February 2014, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will include questions to test knowledge of dental identification.

The ministry decided to cover the subject "to urge all the universities [with dentistry departments] to improve related education," according to an official of the ministry's office that handles applications for national licenses.

In spring last year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry also recommended increasing forensic dentistry courses in its guidelines for dentistry-related universities, and is in the process of surveying the current state of forensic dentistry education.

About 2,600 dentists were dispatched to the areas hit by last year's disaster. However, dental identification work did not progress as planned because the forensics forms varied among prefectures, including Tokyo, while some areas simply lacked dentists with such training.

The Japan Dental Association will conduct a yearly intensive expert training course at seven sites across the nation, including Tokyo, Fukuoka and Hyogo prefectures, between November and February, toward launching a full-scale program to train coordinators in charge of dispatching and instructing dentists in cooperation with administrative authorities and police.

Tadahiro Yanagawa, the association's standing director, said, "We'd like to establish uniform standards for body identification and create a system for broad, coordinator-centered cooperation in the event of a disaster."

Thursday 22 November 2012

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