HONOLULU (KHON2) — A forensic anthropologist with more than four decades of experience is heading to Maui tomorrow to help identify the remains being recovered from ground zero. He explained the process may take some time.
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Dr. Robert Mann is one of the leading forensic anthropologists in the field. Helping identify victims who died in 9/11, the tsunami in Japan and countless other disasters over the past 40 years.
KHON2 talked with Mann who shares what he hopes to accomplish in Lahaina.
“Just hoping to be able to be one of the people that’s going to help bring closure,” he explained.
But Mann said it’s a process.
“There’s three steps in all of this there is the search for the missing, there is the recovery of the missing and then there’s the identification of the missing.”
He said doing that properly means following meticulous procedures and that takes time.
“Typically what we would say, and what I’ve seen over the last 30 to 40 years or so, it could be days if you’re lucky, it could be weeks , it could be months or it could even be a few years,” he said. “They still are finding and identifying victims from the Twin Towers.”
Mann said making an ID on a person who was burned can be very difficult.
“With burning and destruction you lose pieces of the puzzle but you’re still left with the hope.”
When it comes to identifying someone, Mann said it can be done, even with a small piece of bone as long as there is DNA present.
In fact he explained that DNA, fingerprints and teeth are three of the most common methods for identification though they’re not the only ones.
“Every single case, every individual, every decedent is unique, they were unique in life, and they’re unique now. and we just have to figure out what is going to be the magic piece of that science that’s going to end in identification,” Mann said.
He had this message for the families of those who are missing.
“Hang in as best you can, and keep hope alive.”