The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LOCAL pathologist told a Coroner’s Court the country needs a national mass fatality plan to better respond to natural crises after seeing the devastation left behind in Abaco by Hurricane Dorian.
Dr Kiko Bridgewater’s comments came during the resumed inquest before Coroner Jeannine Weech-Gomez yesterday into the presumed deaths of people reported missing following the massive storm in 2019.
Dr Bridgewater, who was a member of the Dorian mass fatality response team, said he, along with other colleagues, travelled to Abaco several times after the storm to examine the bodies of victims.
He said between September 2019 and March 2020, there was a total of 60 remains recovered, one of which was deemed not to be human.
Dr Bridgewater, a pathologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, said officials would examine human remains where they were housed – in a single 40-foot refrigerated trailer located next to the Marsh Harbour clinic.
He said some of the bodies were received in different preservation states, meaning some bodies were well preserved, while others were skeletonised.
In some cases there were only body parts, like a forearm or skull.
“Of the 59 human remains examined, there were 50 adults, six children and three of uncertain age. Thirty-seven were identified as male, 20 were females and sex for two could not be determined,” he told the court.
He added that the cause of death for 28 victims were “likely drowning”, while for the other 30, the cause of death was labelled as “undetermined”.
However, he said, officials believe that one victim may not be deceased based on information received from police.
This was in relation to a male forearm that was found attached to a woman, who were determined to be first degree relatives, meaning parent and child.
According to Dr Bridgewater, five victims were presumptively identified based on the “presence of identification” on the bodies.
These included Duvernat Sainjusmat, Jeffrey Danis Sr, Iscarne Carmilus, Wilner Casseus Paul and Emmanuel Saintil.
Others presumed to be dead based on the names written on their body bags are Dereck Joseph, Louis Bossuet, Walter Cyntelia.
Meanwhile, among those positively identified by DNA analysis includes James Capron, Jeffrey Danis, Melida Almazie, etc.
Out of the 59 bodies recovered, 54 of those were buried by the government in its mass burial exercise held last May. The remaining five victims were buried by family members. They were identified as Alisha Liolli, Lachino Dean, Donna M Johnson, Ralph Kemp, Lorelda Woodside.
While testifying yesterday, Dr Bridgewater said the team’s experience in Abaco taught them several lessons and gave several recommendations that could help strengthen the country’s disaster response should another crisis occur.
One such recommendation includes the implementation of a national mass fatality plan that incorporates all stakeholders, including police officers, defence force officers, funeral directors, pathologists, counsellors and others.
Dr Bridgewater said training exercises centred on recovery efforts will be needed to allow for a faster and more organised response to natural disasters.
He added that a national forensic morgue separate from the one at PMH also needs to be established and fully staffed and budgeted by the government.
According to the pathologist, there is also a need for a mobile temporary mortuary unit outfitted with examination tables and a temporary body storage refrigeration unit which can be transported by sea.