News release

Swissair Identification -- Status Report

Dr. John Butt, Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, today advised the families of victims of Swissair Flight 111 that the recovery of human remains is essentially complete.

Families can now make arrangements to bring the remains of their loved ones home, or put in place plans most suited to their personal wishes. To date, 228 passengers have been positively identified.

"We had originally anticipated identification would take several months," said Dr. Butt. "Thanks to the professionalism, dedication and commitment of all involved, we have reduced that time-frame considerably. The DNA process has also allowed us to unite remains whenever possible, and that process is now virtually completed."

About 1,500 DNA samples were processed through RCMP labs in Regina, Ottawa, Vancouver and Halifax. The Centre for Forensic Sciences in Ontario also provided assistance.

Dr. Butt also advised the families of an unfortunate occurrence regarding 17 small pieces of dental remains. As part of the effort to unite remains, further testing was being conducted on the 17 pieces at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The individual conducting the tests had arranged for storage of the remains at the hospital. Unfortunately, the dental remains were inadvertently discarded and subsequently incinerated.

Preliminary tests conducted may allow identities to be placed with 10 pieces. Families will be notified if and when an identification is made. It will not possible to place identities with seven of the dental pieces.

"This is a most regrettable occurrence," said Dr. Butt. "I am deeply sorry for the distress this may cause and that I am the one that must convey this. I know this is difficult news to receive, but we felt it was important to advise the families of the incident as quickly as possible.

"We also wanted to assure them that there are stringent measures in place at Shearwater to safeguard the remains that are in our care."

The family contact lines continue to operate with the assistance of RCMP personnel who have had continuous contact with family members. Families have been advised they can provide their instructions regarding their wishes early in the new year.

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Contact:

Michele McKinnon
Department of Justice 902-424-6811 E-mail:
ngr                Dec. 15, 1998                 1:00 p.m.