After more than two weeks in Indonesia identifying victims of the AirAsia crash, Singapore's Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team returned yesterday afternoon.
The team, comprising eight police officers and two forensic experts from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), left on Jan 3 to help identify the victims of AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501.
The plane had crashed in stormy weather on Dec 28 with 162 passengers and crew on board.
The DVI team were welcomed back at Changi Airport Terminal 2 by Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, senior police officers and family members.
At a mini press conference at T2, the head of the DVI delegation, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sekher Warrier, said: "We went there to assist the Indonesians during this difficult period and we were helping them to bring closure and comfort to the families of the victims."
Of the 51 bodies recovered so far, 45 have been identified while six remain unidentified.
The Singapore DVI team, based in Surabaya's Bhayangkara hospital, had helped to identify several victims while working closely with their Indonesian counterparts.
Their work day started as early as 8am, processing the bodies arriving from Pangkalan Bun in Kalimantan.
The DVI team's duties included collecting fingerprints, DNA samples, dental records, as well as other helpful information like finding out from the next of kin what the victims were wearing before boarding flight QZ8501.
HSA forensic pathologist Dr Lee Chin Thye said: "We would have full examinations to try and identify any distinguishing marks on the deceased, such as moles and surgical scars.
"We don't know how useful they would be but the more we collect, the better it is to make a more accurate match."
Clearly happy to be back in Singapore, some members of the DVI team like Inspector Mohd Ramdhan, 48, were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming party.
Said Mr Ramdhan: "I was only expecting (to see) my wife and sons. It was a total surprise when I saw 15 family members."
For at least 10 minutes, the officers were hugged by family members and friends. Children jumped into the arms of their fathers while wives held back tears.
But for one father, Mr Samat Ahmad, it was a feeling of pride, seeing his son Mr Muhd Hafidz, 29, return home.
Mr Samat, 62, said: "I was glad and proud that he was selected to go on this assignment. I told him he should be proud, too. "He was representing Singapore to help a neighbouring country.
This article was first published on Jan 19, 2015.
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