After shocking traffic accidents witnessed on our roads, the Namibian Police Force has to deal with cases where deceased accident victims’ bodies are submitted to the state pathologist for identification. The Namibian Police Forensic Science Institute (NPFSI) commences with testing post-mortem samples collected from the scene of the traffic accident.
This is a lengthy scientific process that requires comparing the samples taken from the deceased to the samples collected from biologically related family members.
There are direct reference and also familial references.
For example, familial references are a blood relative such as the mother, father, brother or sister.
In this regard, families are contacted for the collection of additional DNA samples.
During the ongoing examination, the NFSI attempts to do identification through more traditional methods, including direct identification, clothing, comparison of fingerprint and dental records, which are available of the deceased from the time before and after death.
In case of identification, the profiles of the victim and those of the relatives are then compared, and an opinion is given.
The duration of the process is influenced by the quality of the samples and the validation of the reference (relatives’) samples.
DNA tests from an accident are run as batches and to get all the validated reference samples of the relatives is sometimes a drawn-out process.
It is common, for instance in major accidents, to process up to 47 samples per individual.
In incidents where the remains are burnt, the identification process and use of genetic fingerprinting becomes more intricate.
In cases of extreme fire impact, only hard tissues (bones, teeth) are left for DNA analysis.
Furthermore, heavily burnt bones are very prone to contamination with external DNA.
It is important to state that to generate a DNA profile, various steps need to be concluded to develop a profile and this needs to be done in respect of the victim and his relatives against whom the profile is compared.
The DNA process is crucial and thus not unusual, because it serves as assurance to families that their loved ones will be identified with great accuracy.
The Namibian Police Force remains committed to inform and educate the nation on these complex processes that they could be well understood by the Namibian population, who might find themselves in situations where a loved one has burnt beyond recognition in a horrific accident.
CAUTION: Stay alert; make the right decisions and be a law-abiding citizen.
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*Compiled by the Namibian Police Public Relations Division