41 Victims Identified Using DNA Samples

None of the bodies of the victims of the Carmel forest fire could be identified visually.

The process of identifying the victims of the Carmel forest fire continued through the weekend, though the condition of the remains is making it difficult to obtain fingerprints or dental evidence.

Most of the bodies were only identified on Friday night.

"In some of the bodies, we couldn't produce a fingerprint because of the advanced burns and clenched fingers, and in some of the bodies there was difficulty examining the teeth because the jaws of the deceased were also clenched," said Dr. Nachman Ricardo of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir. "So a lot of emphasis was put on use of DNA samples."

None of the bodies could be identified visually, so workers of the institute were sent to the homes of the missing persons to gather DNA samples and compare them to those of the bodies found.

"Personal identification wouldn't have helped us scientifically, so we preferred to avoid it and spare the families the difficult sights of the bodies," Ricardo said. "The institute has used data from the Israel Defense Forces and police databases when trying to identify victims who have served in the army or police and have submitted blood samples during their service."

Ricardo dismissed reports of communication difficulties between the army and the institute. "We have received all the DNA samples missing persons the IDF could provide," he said.

Ricardo said work over the weekend was assisted by a group of several dozen dentists who volunteered to examine the teeth of the bodies when possible and to locate matching dental records held by the health maintenance organizations and insurance companies.

"Sadly, we have experience with similar situations in terror attacks or accidents when the vehicle caught fire, or the helicopter disaster in 1997," said Ricardo. "We are skilled in producing DNA from casualties of fires, and when it's possible to run a DNA comparison, the identification is a certain one as far as we're concerned."

Once the identification process was completed earlier last night, the bodies were transferred to a military installation in the Tzrifin base near Rishon Letzion, and from there to the funerals taking place across the country.

Virtual identification

In 2004, following terror attacks in Sinai, the bodies of the Israeli casualties were identified, for the first time anywhere in the world, through "virtual comparison of DNA."

The bodies were still in Egypt, but the DNA samples were processed and identified in Israel.