Bodies of six plane crash victims identified through DNA tests

Updated May 28 2020


Activists of the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen light candles in memory of the plane crash victims at Numaish Chowrangi on Wednesday evening.—Shakil Adil / White Star
Activists of the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen light candles in memory of the plane crash victims at Numaish Chowrangi on Wednesday evening.—Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Amid concerns being raised by families who are yet to get bodies of their loved ones, authorities said on Wednesday that remains of six victims of the Pakistan International Airline’s plane crash tragedy had been identified through DNA tests.

They said the bodies would be handed over to relatives as soon as the legal process was completed.

Speaking to Dawn, a health department official said samples from 54 unidentified bodies along with samples from 59 relatives had been sent to a Karachi University (KU) laboratory for DNA tests.

“We have received reports from the laboratory that remains of six victims have been identified using DNA tests of their relatives. The bodies would be handed over to their relatives later today as soon as the legal process is completed,” said health department spokesperson Atif Vighio, adding that names of identified victims couldn’t be shared due to legal sensitivities.

Doubts over DNA testing rejected

Meanwhile, families waiting to get bodies of their loved ones had shared their concerns on the social media, expressing doubts over the credibility of the DNA process and that the authorities were not facilitating them, adding to their grief and pain.

Sindh health dept rejects complaints of delay in results of DNA tests

Some also complained that the DNA testing process was taking too much time.

Responding to some of these concerns, Mr Vighio, the health department spokesperson, explained that the department was sharing information with the media as soon as they received updates from the KU laboratory and that complaints about delay were completely baseless.

“It’s a scientific process and would take at least seven days till all the remaining bodies are identified. We are trying our best to facilitate victim families and contact them as soon as a body is identified,” he said.

About the team that had arrived from Lahore to do DNA testing, he said the bodies were in the custody of the health department looking after the work being carried out at the KU lab.

‘KU lab well equipped to follow WHO protocols’

On concerns related to DNA sampling and testing, Prof Iqbal Choudhary, who is supervising the whole process under way at Sindh Forensic DNA and Serology Laboratory at KU, replied that the facility was adequately equipped to follow the WHO protocols.

“Our staff is highly skilled to carry out forensic analysis of burnt and rotten bodies. The team is working round the clock in three shifts,” he said.

To another question, he said: “We don’t do sample collection and that’s the procedure throughout the world. Samples are collected by medico-legal officers in collaboration with police authorities in such cases [and handed over to labs for analysis],” said Prof Choudhary, who also heads the Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research at KU.

According to him, there is absolutely no technical problem in samples. They are properly preserved, intact and labelled. Most of them are of teeth while some are of bones, the last preserved source of DNA, he added.

The laboratory, he said, received 31 samples from the Civil Hospital Karachi and 66 from Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. Fifty-nine relatives submitted their samples in Karachi while one sample was received from Lahore. The DNA profiling of all relatives had been completed.

“We are not concerned with the matter that several bodies have been handed over to relatives (on physical inspection), the lab will carry out analysis of all the samples received,” he said.

The lab, he said, was the official forensic laboratory of Sindh government and processed no private samples.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2020