Ghatkopar plane crash: Doctors to use teeth to ID victims

Jun 29, 2018, 18:08 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

States forensic report by Rajawadi surgeons; pedestrian who died identified by his ID card

Ghatkopar plane crash: Doctors to use teeth to ID victims
Charred remains of the aircraft at Ghatkopar on Thursday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Captain Pradeep Rajput, co-pilot Maria Zuberi, and engineers Manish Kumar Pandey and Surbhi (who goes by one name), who died in the chartered plane crash at Ghatkopar on Thursday morning, had sustained superficial to deep burn injuries before they died of multiple injuries, the postmortem report from Rajawadi Hospital has revealed.

A team of forensic surgeons Dr Shivaji Patil, Dr Rahul Jadhav, Dr Amit Chauhan and Dr Prakash Hingere conducted the autopsy on each body starting from 6 pm and went on for nearly four hours. The entire procedure was captured on camera and Dr Hemlata Pandey, the odontologist from KEM's forensic department, joined the team to extracted molar teeth from the bodies to help with identification.

A forensic surgeon from the team told mid-day, "As the scalp hair in all the five bodies was charred completely, they had to take the molar tooth for DNA examination to ascertain identity. Out of the five bodies, from physical appearances, we could identify that two were female and three male."

The deceased had also sustained serious internal injuries such as fractured ribs, liver and lungs, and poly-trauma, which might be the result of the crash-landing of the burning aircraft. It also indicates that all those inside continued to burn even after the plane had crashed. Due to the excessive heat generated from the burning plane, the bodies had ruptured, the forensic surgeon said.

When asked if any of the deceased had any implant in their bodies, which could have helped in their easy identification, the surgeon replied in the negative. However, the body of Rapjut was identified by a relative with the help of his jewellery, while Zuberi's body was identified by her husband with the help of her ring. The police are, however, not handing over her body to her husband yet as they still have to confirm things at their end. A relative of Rajput said, "The body was completely burnt, so we had to identify it by a chain and bracelet. I took his picture and sent it to another relative to reconfirm."

The forensic team has issued preliminary cause of death as 'death due to burns with poly-trauma'. The skin and viscera have been preserved for chemical analysis. The forensic team will also be visiting the crash site to ascertain the height from which the plane fell and compare the same with the injuries sustained by the deceased, which will be stated in the final autopsy report.

A photograph taken by a resident showing the trail of fire from the dumped fuel
A photograph taken by a resident showing the trail of fire from the dumped fuel

When asked if the bodies would be handed over to the relatives, police surgeon Dr SM Patil said, "I have given instructions to the team that if the police identify the relatives or next of kin of the deceased who come to claim the bodies, the same should be handed over. Otherwise, the bodies will continue to remain in the mortuary."

Eyewitnesses informed the police that the pedestrian (later identified as Govind Patil from an ID card found next to his body) was walking near the pavement, when the aircraft hit a tree and its fuel tank got damaged and leaked aviation fuel and fire right on top of Patil before the plane crashed.

Confirming this, Manish Vora, an estate agent, who lives close to the accident spot, said, "It seems like the pilot deliberately chose the under-construction site to minimise casualties. The entire area is a residential locality and had the aircraft crashed into a residential building or chawls around it would have been one of the worst disasters the city would have witnessed."

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 7) Akilesh Singh confirmed the same and said, "Prima facie, inquires revealed that aviation fuel from the burning plane fell on the pedestrian and road before the crash. We have to wait for the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) team under DGCA to complete its findings. Also, the black box has been retrieved from the aircraft which will throw more light on the incident."

Forensic team to visit crash site
Apart from a mobile forensic team, representatives from biology, physics and general analytical division of the state forensic sciences laboratory visited the crash site to the collected residue and other forensic evidence. Acting director of FSL, Kalina, Dr K V Kulkarni said, "This will be first-of-its-kind probe that his team of scientists will be conducting, as airplane crashes happens rarely. The last they had inspected was the helicopter crash-landing at Aarey, but this is a chartered plane. We will be ascertaining the nature of the chemical seen at the crash site and also on the road, material from the crash scene will be collected for analysis. Also, skin from the deceased and injured will help us know the nature of the chemical that caused the burns."

ADR registered
The Ghatkopar police have registered an accidental death report under section 174 of the criminal procedure code and were seen completing formalities for the autopsy procedures. "We have limited scope of an investigation. The DGCA team will conduct the investigation and find out the reason for the crash. Our role is to ascertain the identity of the deceased and track the next of kin. The four members in the aircraft as well have been identified. Confirmation of the pedestrian's identity is underway," explained Additional Commissioner of Police (East Region) Laxmi Gautam.

Also Read: Ghatkopar plane crash: Pilot's presence of mind saves hundreds

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