How forensic technology aids Surfside recovery effort

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Rescue workers in Surfside. Credit: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

There is hope that the remains of all the victims of the Surfside condo collapse will be recovered this week, and the effort to find them is being supported by a special team that trains for disasters like this.

Think of it like a mobile medical examiner’s office; it is a mass fatality team with 175 members, and every one of them is contributing. Their job is to do whatever they can to bring closure to the victims’ families. They offer equipment, personnel resources and have even deployed some anthropologists and fingerprint experts.

“Our anthropology staff can help identify human remains through skeletal elements,” said Dr. Jason Byrd, commander of Florida’s Emergency Mortuary Operations Response Team. And of course, the fingerprint experts are doing fingerprints and then turning them over to law enforcement authorities for identification.”

Identification used to take days, or even weeks. Now, you can get a match in hours, but you need the resources to do so, and that’s where these experts come in. This is why it was so important to gather DNA samples from family members in the hours right after the collapse.

“When genetic samples were coming out of the site, they can be quickly compared to those in the database to speed identifications, because what we’re really wanting to do is be able to quickly and positively identify human remains and get them reunited with the family members,” Byrd said.

As of Monday morning, 94 people have been confirmed dead, 83 people have been positively identified and 22 are potentially unaccounted for.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.