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. Ellis

    Gator, you are promulgating.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. linda

    Maybe they were using a mobile phone to send off their article's write-up to meet a deadline.I know more than once strange words have appeared on my screen that weren't my intended quotes. Fast fingers flying over small keys!!! 🙂

    May 28, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. ProofBeForeSending

    "quake-hit Joplin"?? Oops. CNN please proofread before posting...

    May 28, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Time for embedded passive RFID tags or or SSN tattooed underarm. Helps with illegal immigrants, too...

    May 28, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • crucified

      what? the mark of the Beast...you crazy.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. guest

    God didn't save you idiot, it was the path of the tornado... sometimes you need to not think of God first.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      Must you be so hateful?

      May 28, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Angel 2nd Class

    My dear guest. I shall say a prayer for you my dear sinner. I don't want you to burn in he/ll. Good day my son.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • habberdash

      get over yourself

      May 28, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Garsneezo

    Yeah, god saved you, but slaughtered all those other people. Fine Christian sentiment. How does that make the neighbors with dead relatives feel?

    May 28, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • habberdash

      I'm sure they're too self-involved to care.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Garsneezo – that's always my thought too when I see things like this. If you think god saved you, then doesn't that mean that he chose not to save the others? Seems sort of mean on god's part. Of course, believers will say that it's all part of god's plan and to big for us to understand. What kind of god has a plan to have small children ripped from their homes?

      May 28, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bill O'Riley

    Karen and Garsneezo, Caution, you have just entered the no speed zone. Tornadoes in Joplin is the topic.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. BoehnerisGod

    The taxpayers shouldn't have to be in the homeowners insurance biz. More obama socialism

    May 28, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Completely missing the point.

      Please see reply to Victors comment below.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Was WILL NORTON found Dead?

    Been hearing his body was found.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. Victor

    Obamaism = Socialism.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Completely missing the point.

      What the hell does this have to do with the headlined topic?? Damn Obama haters always trying to squeeze in their 2 cents.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    My heart goes out to these people, how sad. I am so sorry for your loss. I could not even imagine it.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. mystified

    Well this will help some people with getting closure faster. It will be so painful to have to try to ID a loved one, but if they can they have a proper service for them and then try to start rebuilding their lives. Once one chapter is closed, they can start a new chapter.

    I just hope that they can get the therapy they need to help them in the long run 🙁

    May 28, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cesar in a Onesey

    We were once a burgeoning society.

    May 28, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    Hi Cesar 😉

    May 28, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
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