Lessons learned in Dorian disaster

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)


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.


tribanon 3 years, 2 months ago

The Minnis-led FNM administration would have us believe that less than 100 souls were lost to Hurricane Dorian. They naturally do not wish for the historical records to reflect the actual much greater loss of life that occurred as a result of their failure to heed the lessons taught by the two previous hurricanes that devastated The Bahamas under their watch, namely Irma and Matthew.

And here we are today, with another hurricane season rapidly approaching and much too little done by the Minnis-led FNM administration to avoid unnecessary loss of life in the event of another major hurricane striking one or more of our more populated islands, especially New Providence. Many of us suspect the emergency stores of supplies typically needed on an urgent basis in the immediate aftermath of a major hurricane are as scant as our nation's health supplies in the midst of this pandemic. But Minnis is now much too busy politicking and campaigning to be concerned about such trivial matters.

Hoda 3 years, 2 months ago

What lesson? Evacuate when asked to?

What I find interesting is all the Bahamians claiming there relatives were buried and 95 percent of the names called in the inquest seem to be of Haitian descent. Anyway, Dorian was a terrible act of god. We get u hate the nasty arrogant Minnis.

tribanon 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes, Dorian was a terrible act of mother nature. But the many unnecessary lost souls who were undoubtedly swept out to sea was a terrible act of the Minnis-led administration not enforcing our laws when he had the chance to do so long before Dorian came along. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that these illegal and most unsafe shanty town communities posed a real risk of great loss of life in the event of a major cat 4+ hurricane. And QC Smith's hands are stained with blood for the role he has played, and continues to play to this day, in hampering the government's efforts to eradicate these most unsafe illegal shanty town communities.

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