Lack of data on Hercules crash victims slows identification

Lack of data on Hercules crash victims slows identification
Military soldiers work alongside local policemen to clear debris left at the horrific scene where a hercules C-130 transport plane crashed into a residential area shortly after taking off from an airbase in Medan city.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The lack of available data on the passengers of the Hercules C-130 that crashed in Medan on Tuesday has slowed the process of victim identification.

"The challenges relate to our antemortem data, which deals with DNA, teeth, birthmarks and other identifying features of the victims," the North Sumatra Police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team's deputy chairman Sr. Comr. Didiet Setyobudi told The Jakarta Post at Adam Malik General Hospital on Wednesday.

Didiet said also that identification could not be conducted immediately due to the condition of many of the 141 bodies that were admitted to the hospital.

The DVI team was reported to have identified 71 of the 141 bodies thus far.

In order to speed up the identification process, Didiet has called on the families of the victims to come to the hospital to inform the team of the victims' physical characteristics.

Didiet also said that seven members of the National Police's DVI team had arrived to assist with the identification process.

Head of North Sumatra Police DVI's team, Adj. Sr. Comr. Zulkhairi, said the number of body bags and the number the victims were indeed different.

"So far we cannot discern the total number of victims because some bags contain only parts of a body," he said.

Among the family members helping to identify loved ones was Sahat Sihombing, who held pictures of his two daughters, Ester and Rita, who were killed in the crash.

"They were students at junior high school and senior high school in Medan," said Sahat, who is a soldier on Natuna island, Riau Islands.

He added that his daughters were on board as they wanted to meet him on the island during the holidays.

Meanwhile, heavy equipment and hundreds of personnel from the military and the police continue the process of recovering bodies at the crash site on Jl. Jamin Ginting, Simalingkar, Medan.

Commander of the Bukit Barisan Regional Military Command, Maj. Gen. Edy Rahmayadi, said the military had deployed four companies to help speed up the recovery process.

Meanwhile, the bodies of 12 Air Force personnel who were crew members of the ill-fated plane, and one civilian, have been sent to their respective villages from the Soewondo Air Base in Medan, North Sumatra, on Wednesday.

A military ceremony was held at the air base for the sending home of the bodies, led by Air Force Chief Marshal Agus Supriatna.

"We have prepared a number of aircraft at the Soewondo Air Base to transport the bodies. We will transport all the bodies, no matter how many, as the identification process at the Adam Malik hospital progresses," Agus said.

On Wednesday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo led a ceremony to receive the bodies of crash victims at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, families of Second Sgt. Joko Purwanto of Ngrampal, Sragen, Central Java, and of Chief Sgt. Sutrisno of Nogosari, Boyolali, Central Java, who were among the victims, were shocked upon hearing the news of the crash.

Parman, Joko's uncle, said his newphew's last contact with his family was made on early Tuesday after the sahur predawn meal.

Parman said Joko sent a text message asking for his parents' prayers for the smooth performance of his duty

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