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British airmen's bodies in mix-up

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6604837.stm

A mix-up led to the remains of British airmen killed in Afghanistan being returned in the wrong coffins, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
There was a "regrettable incident" but the problem was sorted out before the troops' funerals, the MoD insisted.

The Observer says one mother considered cancelling her son's funeral.

The mix-up occurred after a reconnaissance aircraft crashed near Kandahar in September, killing 14 airmen, a soldier and a Marine.

The men's bodies were returned home in a ceremony at RAF Kinloss in Moray, north-east Scotland.

But it has emerged that at least one victim's remains had ended up in the coffin of another.

Trish Knight's son Ben, 25, was among those killed, said: "We don't know how many mistakes were made over this but body parts were found in a wrong coffin and there may well have been more parts mixed up.

"We just thought: 'How can we go ahead if we are not sure if it's Ben's body in there or maybe somebody else's?'"

According to an MoD spokesman the fam
 
The same happened in Spain a couple of years back after an aircraft bringing soldiers back from Afghanistan crashed in Turkey.
It was only after the state funeral attended by the King and Queen that questions began to be asked.
Correctly identifying body parts after something as traumatic as an aircrash must be a lengthy and difficult process.
 

PartTimePongo

War Hero
Correctly identifying body parts after something as traumatic as an aircrash must be a lengthy and difficult process.

Even more difficult when the debris is spread over a wide area, and the aircraft impacted at speed.

Not to mention an area under very real threat of insurgent attack, and a very limited time scale to get things done because of that.

It is regrettable, and I feel sorry for the familes and colleagues of our fallen, but in this particular circumstance , I don't think pointing fingers of blame helps anyone here, not the familes, not the colleagues, and certainly not those poor individuals tasked to collect human remains in these circumstances.
 
Surely a bit of DNA work after the bodies had been recovered would have avoided this?

That would have taken time though, and time=money.
 
tlamdweeb said:
Surely a bit of DNA work after the bodies had been recovered would have avoided this?

That would have taken time though, and time=money.

Plus an awfully long wait for the relatives to get their people back. Personally I think we wait too long in this country as it is between death and the funeral, it tends too drag an awful time out even more. In Spain funerals usually happen about 48hrs after death unless foul play is suspected.
In the Spanish accident they buried people who later turned out to be alive as the passenger list for the flight was incorrect, it was all a bit of a mess.
They used to use chartered aircraft, in the accident case a decidely dodgy YAK42. Now they use the same aircraft and flown by the same crews as the Prime Minister; a nice new Airbus that can make the trip back to Madrid without stopping to refuel.
At least some improvement.
 
tlamdweeb said:
Surely a bit of DNA work after the bodies had been recovered would have avoided this?

That would have taken time though, and time=money.

I believe the aircraft was flying at high altitude when the accident happened.
There may well have been a mid air breakup which would have put the wreckage over a very large area. Whether this was the case I'm not sure.
Pressed for time and knowing who was on board to be blunt the coffins would have been a gesture to asuage grief.
Even after a very long period of time the exact identity of some passengers on the Pan AM 107 was never found out.
 
I still think we should make the effort BEFORE the coffins are flown back to the UK. If it was a civvy crash, forensic effort would have been expended before the bodies were repatriated. Why should the RAF (or any other service) be treated differently in that respect?
 

Karma

War Hero
tlamdweeb said:
I still think we should make the effort BEFORE the coffins are flown back to the UK.

Because the teams on the ground have got f*** all else to do with their time in theatre.

It might sound callous, and I have some sympathy for the families concerned, but mistakes happen sometimes.
 
The cause of the crash I don't exactly know but as the aircraft was at high altitude it suggests one or two things:
That something catastrophic happened to the structure of the machine or that it was being flown outside its' designed envelope; modern aircraft are designed to be flown automatically at high altitude and interference with the systems that do this can be damaging.
The resultant accident with the aircraft falling something like six miles and possibly still under power would have been more damaging than a large bomb.
Which is what would have been facing, in a hostile environment, anyone trying to sort an awful mess out.
To this day pieces of a DC10 that crashed outside Paris are still be unearthed in the forest of Ermanonville.
Some distant relatives of mine were onboard a Dan Air Comet aircraft that in 1970 became lost as it descended into Barcelona; eventually crashing with full power on (investigation showed that at the last minute the pilots attempted to avoid disaster), into a densely wooded area near Girona. So smashed and burnt were the remains of the passengers that what could be found was taken to the local crematorium and burned as one unit.
Some of the relatives are obviously grieving and understandably crying out in anger at what they now perceive as unfair treatment.
All the technology and analysing in the world could hardly help.
It'd take a very strong man to explain to the relatives what they will eventually, or may already, know only too well.
They should be left in peace to come to terms and grieve.
 
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