Thursday, 7 February 2013

Examiners try to ID victims in Casa Grande plane crash

Medical examiners on Thursday were working to identify at least two people who died after a small plane crashed near the runway at Casa Grande Municipal Airport on Wednesday morning.

It is still unclear how many people were in the Beechcraft King Air, a twin-engine turbo-prop plane, that crashed shortly after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, just north of the runway.

The plane was destroyed by fire, said Jim Morgan, assistant fire chief of the Casa Grande Fire Department.

The charred remains of the two people were visible at the crash site. It is possible that more remains could be found in the crash, Morgan said.

The medical examiner is working to identify the bodies at this time.

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board was on the scene Thursday, and plans to have the wreckage removed to a Phoenix storage facility by the evening.

The investigator, alongside an investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration is scheduled to do a physical examination of the wreckage Friday.

The plane is registered to a Tuscon company, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Additional information was being withheld until officials notify relatives of the deceased.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be the lead agency in the investigation, although it could take months to determine the cause of the crash, Gregor said.

The plane was flying from west to east as it began to land, Morgan said.

“The airplane made a sudden ascent and a sudden descent where it crashed,” Morgan said.

A firefighter working outside a nearby fire station told investigators that as the plane approached the runway, it went straight up about 200 to 300 feet, made a sharp left turn and crashed.

“It could have been what is known as a stall,’’ Morgan said.

One witness apparently saw the plane, which looked like a six-seater, try to land on the runway when it kicked up and flipped over. Gary Couch, a retiree, was at the airport having coffee with friends when he heard the crash and saw the aftermath.

“We saw a lot of black smoke and a lot of flames,” Couch said. “You just feel sorry for the people in the plane.”

Morgan said it’s been several years since an accident like this occurred in Casa Grande.

Officials said several flight schools around Phoenix use the airport for training. The airport is often used as a halfway point between Tuscon and Phoenix. It does not have a control tower, so instrument landing rules are in effect.

Instructors and their students often practice touch and go drills, where they land and take off without coming to a full stop

Thursday 7 February 2013

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Denied closure, families of Baldia factory fire victims agree to mass burial

Tired of waiting for the remains of their loved ones to be identified, families of this subset of Baldia fire victims have agreed to the government’s proposal to hold a mass burial for charred corpses that are lying at Edhi morgue.

“I have been waiting to get my son’s body for months, and now they tell me that I won’t be able to get it,” said Muhammad Rauf, whose 18-year-old son, Muhammad Haris, was among the victims.

On Wednesday, Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmed had announced that a mass burial of the 17 charred bodies that are lying at the Edhi morgue would be held on Sunday. The minister’s statement was lambasted by trade unionists during a press conference on Thursday.

The unionists, as well as activists, of various human rights organisations demanded that the independent commission formed by the Sindh High Court, headed by former Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery, should be made responsible for disbursing all compensation among the victims’ families.

Speaking on the occasion, National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor said that 22 families had received the bodies of their loved ones, and they should be immediately compensated. He claimed that around 262 workers had lost their lives in the ill-fated Ali Enterprises factory, and that 17 unidentified bodies were still lying in Edhi morgue. Officials have yet to compensate around 59 families, he added.

On the one hand, some relatives of the Baldia fire victims are being tormented by the knowledge that they would never be able to look at their loved ones for a last time. On the other hand, they know that they stand a chance of getting financial compensation offered by the government and other private organisations if they agree to the mass burial.

Until this point, these families faced a dilemma, as they did not have any documentary proof that their relatives had died in the fire. This, in turn, had essentially disqualified them from getting any kind of compensation.

Nazia, whose husband, Riaz Ahmad, died in the inferno, said that she and relatives of other unidentified victims had met MPA Hanif Sheikh on Thursday. The lawmaker had assured them that they would be given the death certificates of their loved ones after the mass burial. “What choice did we have except to say yes. If I had received my husband’s body and had looked at him for the last time, it would have given me [closure].”

Imran, who lost his brother and sister-in-law in the fire, said that he didn’t trust the government to hand out compensation to all the remaining families, even after the mass burial. “We ran from pillar to post for their bodies, but got nowhere. The same thing is likely to happen with the government’s promise to give compensation.” He feared that authorities were likely to pose questions over the “real” heirs of the victims when it came to giving compensation.

Human rights activists said that it was shameful for the government to be unable to identify the remaining victims of the inferno. Asad Butt of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that the bodies should not be buried until each one of them had been identified. “Even [medieval] bodies can be identified these days. What is the government’s excuse for not being able to [identify bodies of Baldia fire victims] and hand them over to their families,” he asked.

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research said that the government should have sent the DNA samples abroad for identification. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the Edhi Foundation, Anwar Kazmi, said that authorities had yet to contact the philanthropic organisation over the mass burial.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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Man’s body unidentified for two years

On the evening of Feb. 21, 2011, a motorist travelling through a small town north of Trois-Rivières called 911 to report a fire in a wooded area along Highway 155.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they made a gruesome discovery. Among the debris was the badly burned body of a man abandoned at the side of the road. When the Sûreté du Québec began investigating, they asked the public for help in solving the mystery.

The body was taken to the provincial crime lab in Montreal for an autopsy, but a coroner was unable to identify the man.

One day earlier, on Feb. 20, 2011, the worried family of Collin Anthony Williams, of Châteauguay, called Montreal police to report that he gone missing. Williams, 38, visited his mother in LaSalle that day and was on his way to a bar in the neighbourhood when he vanished.

About 10 days later, Montreal police notified the media about Williams’s disappearance. “He is not in the habit of leaving people close to him without news,” the police report said. Anyone with information was asked to call police investigators.

After Williams vanished, his name was added to a database of missing persons that police forces across Canada can access. Police also have access to a list of all unidentified bodies in Quebec.

Despite the existence of both databases, it took police almost two years to identify Williams as the man whose badly burned body was found on the side of the highway near Trois-Rivières.

While family and friends have spent almost two years wondering what had become of Williams, his body was lying in the Montreal morgue on Parthenais St.

The SQ said on Wednesday that they were able to identify Williams after a sample of his DNA was entered into a DNA database.

The SQ and the Montreal police could not say why it took two years for them to figure out that the man who was reported missing on Feb. 20, 2011, was the same person who was found near Trois-Rivières the next day.

SQ Sgt. Eloise Cossette said the match was made after Montreal police put a sample of Williams’s DNA in a police database, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t say when that was done.

“You have to ask the Montreal police,” she said.

Cossette defended the provincial police’s handling of the case, saying all the SQ had to go on “was a badly burned body.”

“When people disappear, it is not systematic that we (police) get a DNA sample,” Cossette said. “It is after time, when the person doesn’t come back and we are out of options, (that it’s done).”

Montreal police spokesperson Yannick Ouimet said he couldn’t provide any details of why it took police two years to identify Williams. He said he didn’t know when, and wouldn’t find out when, the DNA sample had been entered into the database by Montreal police.

“DNA can take 12 to 18 months unless it is an emergency,” Ouimet said. “This is not CSI Miami, where everything takes place within 24 hours.”

Cossette said she couldn’t release any more details about the case because the SQ is conducting a homicide investigation.

Williams had three children and worked at the Jewish General Hospital at the time he disappeared. Police have no motive for his killing.

His family could not be reached for comment.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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Police remains recovered in Baragoi

Police in Baragoi have recovered bones believed to be the remains of one of the three missing police officers who were murdered in the bungled operation that left more than 40 officers dead last November.

The bones and skull were recovered from a thicket by a special squad of police sent from Nairobi on Wednesday.

Officers on the ground say that the operation to recover the remaining missing bodies is on-going. They added that preliminary findings showed that the remains recovered on Wednesday belong to an officer who worked with the Anti-Stock Theft Unit.

Police headquarters confirmed the recovery, explaining that it happened following an intensive search after it was established the three had not been accounted for almost three months after the incident.

Police say they are yet to recover 30 of the 33 guns that were stolen from the officers after the November ambush.

There were 108 policemen and 49 reservists who were involved in the operation.

It took months for six bodies of those recovered to be identified at the mortuary, leading to a confrontation between different families- each claiming the remains.

The November 10 incident was a culmination of investigations following an attack by Turkana raiders on Samburu homesteads where some 500 livestock were stolen on October 20.

A week later, Samburu raiders also attacked Turkana homesteads and stole animals during which 12 of the raiders were killed.

Several people have since been charged in court over the murders and robbery of the guns.

Police imposter Joshua Waiganjo has also been drawn into the saga after it emerged he accompanied the team of officers who went there prior to the operation amid speculation he could have leaked information on the same.

A team formed to investigate the saga said they could not conclusively state if Waiganjo leaked information on the operation and called for further investigations.

The Waiganjo saga has led to the sacking of two senior police officers.

Samburu County is rocked by insecurity partly due to proliferation of small arms that has promoted the culture of cattle rustling over the years.

The Government has failed to explain the destination of the raided animals with some suggesting that prominent figures are involved in the illicit shipment and sale of the stolen cattle.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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More bodies identified in Henan bridge collapse

The official death toll from the fatal Yichang bridge collapse last week has risen to 13 people, according to on-site authorities heading rescue and investigation efforts.

It is the second time this week that the official list of victims has been revised, raising concerns amongst the public that there may have been a deliberate cover-up.

Forensic tests were able to confirm and identify the bodies of three men aged 34, 45 and 54, the Beijing News reported.

One of the victims was the driver of the cargo truck carrying the illegal fireworks that had exploded, leading to the bridge’s collapse.

A CCTV report on Wednesday said authorities had omitted the death of the 34-year-old driver, Shi Yanfei. It questioned why authorities had failed to include his name on the original list five days after the accident.

The earliest media reports had put the death toll at 26, but rescuers eventually reduced it to 10, the figure which most media reports have used since.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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Police say at least 51 killed in Zambia road accident

At least 51 people died on Thursday when a bus and a truck collided about 100 km (60 miles) north of Zambian capital Lusaka, police said.

Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Kanjela said the death toll could rise as soldiers and firefighters were still checking the wreckage for trapped bodies.

"So far we have counted 51 bodies but there could be one or two people more that are still trapped," Kanjela said. The cause of the accident was under investigation, she said.

According to reports, the bus was operated by the Zambia Postal Service, which provides passenger services on buses which carry post, and was full of people.

There was serious speeding by all the vehicles involved, Harry Kalaba - an official in the vice-president's office - told AFP news agency from the crash site.

A survivor was quoted as saying the bus had been swerving to avoid an oncoming vehicle.

Some 22 dazed or unconscious survivors were being treated in a nearby missionary hospital, AFP said, while more seriously injured casualties had been taken to hospital in Lusaka.

President Michael Sata conveyed his government's "deepest condolences to the beloved families on the death of their beloved ones" and wished the injured a speedy recovery, AFP said.

Police are investigating the cause of the crash, Ms Kanjela said.

Zambian roads are extremely dangerous and buses and other vehicles are often overloaded or poorly maintained.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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Solomon Islands tsunami; death toll rising

Aid workers struggled to reach remote villages in the Solomon Islands on Thursday as the death toll rose from a tsunami triggered by a powerful undersea earthquake.

At least nine people were killed when an earthquake set off a small but powerful tsunami that sent 1.5-metre (4ft 11in) waves roaring inland on Santa Cruz Island, in the south Pacific, on Wednesday. Around 100 homes across five villages were damaged or destroyed.

Elderly people and at least one child were among those who died after being sucked under the rushing water, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister.

Dozens of strong aftershocks were keeping frightened residents from returning to the coast, Herming said.

"People are still scared of going back to their homes because there's nothing left, so they are residing in temporary shelters on higher ground," Herming said.

The tsunami was generated by a powerful 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck near the town of Lata, on Santa Cruz in Temotu, the eastern-most province in the Solomons. Temotu has a population of about 30,000.

Smaller waves were recorded in Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

The damage appeared to be concentrated on the west side of Santa Cruz, with five villages wiped out, Herming said. Authorities were still struggling to reach the remote area but an estimated 100 homes had been damaged or destroyed, he said.

The tsunami flooded the nearest airstrip and left it littered with debris, preventing relief workers from reaching the region by air. Smaller islands may also have sustained some damage but workers had not yet reached those areas, Herming said.

More than 50 people were killed and thousands lost their homes in April 2007 when a magnitude-8.1 quake hit the western Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal villages.

The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands with a population of about 552,000 people. They lie on the "ring of fire", an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific rim and where about 90% of the world's quakes occur.

Thursday 7 February 2013

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33 families criticize the search for the disappeared from the Araguaia massacre [translated]

Relatives of disappeared politicians want to reduce the number of soldiers in the group created by the government to locate and collect the bodies of guerrillas who worked in the Araguaia Guerrilla. For 33 families who signed document with this request, delivered to the defense minister, Celso Amorim, two weeks ago, the presence of military expeditions in the Araguaia Working Group (GTA) "scare" the locals where the searches are made, increases the costs of operation and has no guaranteed results in the location of the remains. The document was handed to Amorim at the first meeting of the minister with relatives of victims of the dictatorship, the Department of Human Rights.

Since the group was created in 2009 pursuant to a court order, the military has provided logistic support to operations. The GTA is composed of military, families of the disappeared, observers and researchers. Each expedition involves, on average, 135 people: two-thirds and one-third are military, civilian. The Ministry of Defence spent with the expeditions of 2011 and 2012 was R $ 3.9 million, of which R $ 2.4 million with daily tickets and transportation, including car rental and fuel. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Secretariat also pay expenses of its members, but with much lower values.

"The participation of a more effective military is justified due to the characteristics of the region and is responsible for the military security activities, transportation, communication, health, mapping, among others, relating to logistical support liability under the Command of the Army," said the Ministry of Defence.

But in a statement, family members dispute the number of troops. "We understand that the number of troops in expeditions should be reduced, since only scares the locals and also the very onerous amount of spending that is shown without the need for so many pictures, apparatus and equipment available in the logistics," says the document.

Family members also claim that the best results were obtained in the search in the absence of the military. "Most of the information obtained by the relatives were only really possible when they were unaccompanied by military forces in 1981, 1991 and 1996, when the government apparatus was small."

But the position of family members is not unanimous. Many parents support the work of the group, as Diva Santana, who represents the family Committee Political Deaths and Disappearances, and believe that this is the best possible route.

Thursday 7 February 2013

[In Portuguese; translated with Google Translate]

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Tokyo Police Introduce Trucks for Autopsy on Disaster Victims

The Metropolitan Police Department of Tokyo has introduced two large trucks to be used for autopsies in case of disasters such as a powerful earthquake hitting the Japanese capital, informed sources said Wednesday.

The trucks, which cost 14 million yen each, will carry tents and water purification equipment to disaster-hit areas, the sources said.

The MPD assumes that it could face difficulties conducting on-site postmortem examinations for a large number of victims in the event of large-scale disasters. In each of the tents, autopsies can be conducted on three bodies at the same time, according to the sources.

Each of the trucks weighs about 5.1 tons and has the maximum loading capacity of 2.8 tons. The police department plans to introduce more such trucks, the sources said.

When the 9.0-magnitude quake and huge tsunami hit northeastern Japan in March 2011, police officers for identifying bodies found it difficult to carry out their activities partly because facilities for housing bodies were destroyed and there was a lack of washing water.

Wednesday 7 February 2013

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