Twelve of the 158 passengers of the Air India Express flight killed in the May 22 crash here had to be buried in unmarked graves.
According to the district administration, the 12 bodies could not be identified because of a mix-up. Some families took away the bodies that did not belong to them in the confusion that prevailed after the crash. The body of Mohammed Zubair Ziad (4) was taken away by a family that believed that it was the body of an adult.
Narrating a similar incident, Vidya Dinker, an activist who was involved in the relief operations, said: “One family had identified their kin and filled the claims form at the Wenlock Hospital. They then moved to another hospital to look for other relatives. By the time they came back, somebody else had taken the body.”
There was no coherent mechanism to identify the bodies, and some junior policemen were handling the process. “Whereas, a senior police officer was managing traffic,” she claimed.
“Disaster Victim Identification” guidelines issued by the Interpol were not adhered to immediately. Despite the Interpol's warning that visual identification is “notoriously unreliable and should be avoided at all costs.”
136 of the 158 bodies were handed over on this basis alone. The Interpol, instead, recommends the use of medical and forensic tests.
According to a senior district official, the Interpol's guidelines were referred to 10 days after the crash.
Inspector-General of Police Gopal B. Hosur said that there was no other alternative. All the bodies could not have been identified by DNA tests.
“There was no way we could have waited for the DNA tests. Keeping so many bodies in our possession for so long could have created a law and order nightmare,” he said.
District Health Officer H. Jagannath said as the district's storage facilities were woefully inadequate, the bodies would have started decomposing.
Chief Fire Officer H.S. Varadarajan said that some of the bodies could not be identified because they were robbed of jewellery by some of those who posed as rescue workers at the crash site. “The police should have cordoned off the area and allowed only fire tenders to do their job,” he said.
Deputy Superintendent of Police S. Girish, who was in-charge of the crash site, said: “There were only around 10 firemen and public support was necessary.”