Macabre body ID process adds to Joplin's pain
A spray-painted message sums up the helplessness -- and hope -- some feel in Joplin, Missouri, after a tornado hit the city.
May 28th, 2011
12:39 AM ET

Macabre body ID process adds to Joplin's pain

A Newton County, Missouri, official said authorities would begin streamlining the process of identifying bodies Saturday in Joplin in the aftermath of a killer tornado.

"The decision was made that if a person can make a positive ID, let’s say for instance … piercings or tattoos," said Mark Bridges of the Newton County, Missouri, coroner’s office, "[Saturday] we’re gonna start the process of allowing those people to view the bodies of the loved ones."

"We’re going to go ahead and start releasing those bodies," he said.

Already frayed nerves reached a boiling point Friday in Joplin, Missouri, as families trying to retrieve their dead loved ones were stalled by cautious medical examiners meticulously trying to sort remains.

The deadliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. smashed through the city Sunday, killing 132 people and leaving more than 156 unaccounted for.

While acknowledging families’ frustration, Bridges told CNN’s Eliott Spitzer that they were making “good progress” in identifying bodies.

Bridges said the coroners were trying to avoid a horror that had unfortunately already taken place.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/05/26/exp.arena.joplin.tornado.morgue.cnn"%5D

“The situation that we had early on is we had some family members that made identification on an individual and they got him to a mortuary, got him embalmed, got him dressed and when they went back [to prepare visitation services] it was not their son,” he said. “So the Jasper County Coroner ... clamped it [streamlined identification] down at that time.”

But that was little comfort for residents like Divine Akino, who lost her mother in the twister.

The Kansas City, Missouri, resident said her mother’s body was released Friday morning, one of the first, but only after days of agonizing bureaucratic red tape.

“We just want to claim our dead bodies,” Akino said. “It was a little frustrating because we kept asking them, ‘Where is the help that we’re getting?' " she said, referring to the coroner's office. "Is this where our tax dollars are going?”

Akino said her mother was worshipping at the evening service at Harmony Heights Baptist Church when the tornado tore the walls down.

Drawn to the Bible's message of salvation, Grace Akino was a religious woman, her daughter said.

“She named me Divine because I was the first born. She and my dad met through a missionary in the Philippines,” she said.

Grace Akino's body was found covering her 12-year-son, who survived, Divine Akino said.

A visitation service for Grace Akino drew more than 200 people late Friday, her daughter said.

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Filed under: Joplin • Missouri • Tornadoes • Weather
soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. Robbie

    It didnt take CNN long (Wednesday) to find something to report on negative and beat it to death. Victims were being misidentified!!!!! Some victims are so unrecognizible they can only be identified via DNA. This is in one ear of CNN primetime anchors and out the other. I do not know how the Newton County Coroner and Gov. Nixon showed such patience in answering your questions after your ignored their logical answers and kept asking the same questions again and again. Get off their backs and let them do their jobs.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      Robbie, that is exactly what I thought. I am disappointed in CNN for egging the grieving families on about how long it was taking to identify the bodies. I thought the coroner did a great job explaining why he didn't want the families to view the bodies in the conditions that some of them were in. They have an extremely hard job and do not need the media putting on a reality tv show. Our thoughts are with all of you in Joplin, Alabama, Oklahoma and the rest of the states who have lost lives.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lynseypug

    The headline calls this a "Macabre Body ID Process". I'm sorry but that's just wrong. Macabre is winding up with the wrong body at the funeral home because of a distraught family's mistake.

    May 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      I agree completely. Just wait for the complaints when a streamlined system distributes many bodies to the wrong families. Now THAT would be a real issue. The real story here is how the families are having to suffer further because the tragedy is so huge that it has overwhelmed the towns coroner office. They are not set up to handle 100+ mangled bodies. This is just one more strain added to the extreme pain these families are suffering. But it is not as if this is some sort of failure of government or the coroners office. The streamlined process that was properly halted was just a well intentioned failure.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cynthia

    I think everyone should stop and ask how can we help the people in Joplin not go off on a stupid tangent about a stupid typo. big fat deal. Think of the tragedy and how this affects everyone, my prayers and condolences goes out to all those affected by that horrible tragedy. God bless everyone.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Amen, God bless you too.

      May 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LBubble

    Losses of this kind as total as they seem do not lend themselves to reason. Add to that the fact that no amount of notice or preparedness could have prevented the worst of it. It seems to me that when we don't know what, when, how or why we either blame or celebrate God. Poor God, she just can't win 'em all!

    May 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dante

    They still praise God–no matter what. That's some awesome faith.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. LBubble

    Wake up and be somebody!! Do something good for someone you never met. Stop communicating about your compassion and act on it. Where will you be when someone needs you? If you want to make a difference be different. If God is real God has the same expectations of you as you of him/her. So put up or shut up. Your sympathy is not a warm blanket no matter how tightly woven the words. People need verbs, you know, Action!! Stop pumping BP gas, buy American products and travel our own country. Go online and apply for the employment opportunities in the various states in need of man/woman power. Go to the problem and be apart of the solution while rebuilding your personal financial life. We would never have become an industrialized nation were it not for self reliant opportunist of greater action than words. If you're unemployed here look for an opportunity in La, Joplin or any number of places. If you're still alright financially find another way to get involved. Whatever your situation the greater debate is within. What will your legacy be? Blogging (also a verb) or actually being involved in life being better going forward prior to the highly anticipated end of days and final day of judgment. Believe in humanity and in that space you may just find a God more identifiable, LOVE!

    May 29, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Eric

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrnRSSHz4dU&w=640&h=360]
    This is a link to a video taken by a security camera on the side of a friend's house. He and his family made it out ok, his house was damaged but not destroyed. Many of the families on his block were not so lucky. As bad as it seems on tv, trust me it is much worse here.

    May 29, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. hafiz

    A VERY GOOD YET PAINFULL? ASKED BY THE GOOD OLD LADY OF JOPLIN?AFTER SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF THE AUTHORITIES,IS THIS THE WAY UR SUPPOSE TO TREAT US?IS THIS WHERE ARE TAX DOLLARS ARE GOIN?WELL LADY WAKE UP,UR TAX DOLLARS ARE GOIN TO THE RICH ZIONIST CHEATERS ON WALL STREET AS BONUSES N AS LOANS TO THEIR COMPANIES TO SURVIVE,N THE REST ARE GOIN TO THE STATE OF ISRAEL,EGYPT,PAKISTAN N THE BROTHER OF HAMID KARZAI CALLED WALI KARZAI SO THAT HE CAN BUY N SELL DRUGS N THEY ALL CAN SURVIVE?N YEAH SOME TAX DOLLARS ARE ALSO GOIN TO FUND THE LAVISH LIFE STYLE N VACATIONS OF UR FIRST LADY,YEAH DONT FORGET THAT?

    May 29, 2011 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. hafiz

    O YEAH I FORGOT,TONS OF UR TAX DOLLARS ARE ALSO GOIN TO FUND HILLY BILLY CLINTONS WORLD WIDE FORIEGHN TOURS TO MEET UP WITH DIFFERENT DIPLOMATS N LEADERS,WHICH ACHIEVE LITTLE FOR THE STATE N SECURITY WISE FOR THE U.S.

    May 29, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dogwelder

    GAWD SAFED US HERPY DERP DURRRR

    May 29, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. We

    Joplin and all of Missouri, we all care and share our deep love and compassion for ALL of you. Each and every one of you young and old keep in mind you are not alone. Be strong for the ones who are with you now for they need you more than ever. And they will in return in their own way.
    Love, All of us

    May 29, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. wanda

    her mom just was killed in a horrible tragedy that took the lives of over 130 of her neighbors and her kid is crying about tax money being mismanaged? when i see those 'god saved us' signs the ONLY thing i think of is then why did god kill those others? ps she's still dead, honey

    May 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Honey, bad things happen to both good people and bad people. No one can say if a particular someone's death is a random occurrence or God's choice to take someone. No one can say whether God in his wisdom takes a particular someone now because it would be better for that person than if they had lived. What this should do is remind you that NO ONE knows when their last minutes will be. You need to get yourself in the right kind of relationship with God, so you'll be ready when your time comes. Believe, repent of your sins and be baptized. Don't wait; you may have less time than you think.

      June 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Observer1290

    Is obama insane?
    http://larouchepac.com/node/18297

    May 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Observer1290

    Obama shut down the weather forecasting satellites that could have warned of this disaster.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsf2NvF2gxs&w=640&h=360]

    May 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Since when did CNN allow youtube videos to be posted as comments?

      June 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jean

    You're not a well person, are you, Observer1290?

    May 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
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