Pan African Medical Journal

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Forensic odontological observations in the victims of DANA air crash

JO Obafunwa, VO Ogunbanjo, OB Ogunbanjo, SS Soyemi, FA Faduyile


Introduction: Forensic odontology or forensic dentistry is that aspect of forensic science that uses the application of dental science for the identification of unknown human remains and bite marks. Deaths resulting from mass disasters such as plane crash or fire incidence have always been given mass burial in Nigeria. This was obviously due to the fact that Forensic Pathologists whose roles involve disaster victim identification were not available at that time. However, in the DANA air crash in Lagos in 2012, the Forensic pathologist and dental teams were invited for the first time to identify the victims. The objectives of this paper are to identify the extent of victims’ identification using Forensic odontology alone and its   combination with DNA analysis. It also presents the pattern of fractures seen in the mandible and maxilla of the victims.

Methods: the bodies were dissected using following the standard protocol dissection. Prior to this all the victims had Dental Radiological Examination. The oral cavities were exposed after which the Odontology team was invited for photographing first, followed by dental charting. Fractures of the mandible, maxilla including the anatomical regions were all recorded and photographed. Dental prosthesis, restorations, crowns and bridge and other findings were also noted, recorded and compared with ante mortem records where available.

Results: a total of152 bodies were recovered from the crash site while 148 victims were eventually identified through a combination of DNA analysis and forensic odontology.This represented 97.4%.Forensic odontology was the primary identifier in 10%. There were no fingerprinting information in this country at present therefore, it could not be used. A total of 89 (60%) were males while females accounted for 59(40%).This gives a ratio of 1.5:1.Most of the victims were in the age group 30-49years; this  represented 52% of the victims while the least involved age groups were victims above 60 years of age which accounted for only 4.7%. Mandibular fractures were seen in 29 victims, maxilla in 15, combined   mandibullo/maxillary in 15 victims, while 89 victims had nojaw fracture.The most common area of fracture in the mandible was the body which  accounted for 36.4%, closely followed byparasymphysealregion31.9 %,symphyseal22.7% and the angle 9.0%. The most common fracture in the maxillae was palatal split fracture which accounted for 52%, this was followed by pterygoid24%,alveolar 8% and multiple locations 16%.

Conclusion: a combination of DNA analysis and forensic odontology was able to identify a total of 148 victims out of 152 representing 97.4%. Forensic odontology was the primary identifier in only 10%. In the latter, poor and lack of dental records were responsible for this very low figure. The most common area of fracture in the mandible was th ebody which accounted for 36.4%, while that of the maxillae was palatal fracture which
accounted for 52%. Padding of the back of the seats in the aircraft should be canvassed for to provide Cushing effect for passengers.
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