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. Jazzzzzzzz

    Yeah... its hard to be a man of God and be a man of power.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. macabre body looting

    Just because God allows bad things to happen doesn't mean he caused them. duh.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • MandoZink

      Excellent example of the blind faith reasoning necessary to maintain a level of belief without question. It's okay... and comforting, too. Hey, you still have the chance to figure this out. It starts out with a sudden realization that science and plain chance may be at play here. If done well, at some point the whole house of cards falls away, and you begin to glimpse the entire horizon unfettered. Yeah, its a metaphor.

      May 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • InVermont

      “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God?”
      Epicurus – Greek philosopher, BC 341-270

      May 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Forensics4Life

    The process of identifying bodies can be complex; the ME should be allowed do his/her job so that the work is done correctly.

    May 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jmc

    God has nothing to do with to say that he spared some and let others die is stupid tornados are unprectable he doent have anything to do with weather related tragedy

    May 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. beanandzeus

    Agree with Forensics4life - especially complex when the bodies have been impacted by the violence of a tornado. As in many types of natural and human facilitated disasters, visual ID is not always possible.

    May 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jmc

    No i did not i should be able to comment

    May 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jmc

    This is the first time ive read this blog
    cnn be fair to the people who care about what the folks are going through

    May 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tammy

    My heart goes out to everyone and their familes that have been devasted by the tornadoes! I wish everyone would help this area instead of fighting. How about we all get together and send stuff to help.

    May 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HuH

    Glad to see that Obama is staying safe in Europe. Instead of supporting the people of Joplin.

    May 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • dat chick

      same thing BUSH did when hurricane katrina hit at least Joplin got a response immediately New Orleans waited for ppl to die on the side of roads for DAYS

      May 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • kman02

      Yea. He didn't swim to the bottom of the gulf and plug that well, either. Worthless.

      May 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Geoff Maguire

    It is always amazing to watch the religious folding them selves into ideological origami as they try to make sense of a tragedy like this so it can fit fit into their comfortable notions about what "God wants". One thanks God for choosing him as special and therefore worthy of saving. Another attempts to rationalize and excuse God for allowing such an awful thing as smiting little children and or other innocents. The real wack jobs like the Westboro morons will say it was a punishment for some completely unrelated event for or issue. As an agnostic it would be easy to smirk at all this hand wringing were there not so much human anguish involved.

    The best explanation I ever heard was from Rabbi Kushner who in his book "Why bad things happen to good people" offered that "God" (insert the deity of your choice) organizes the universe in an orderly way and put natural forces in place that are on the whole good things. Gravity for instance keeps us from floating off into space on the whole a good thing, but a bit troublesome if your airplanes engines just quit. there are many other examples. By allowing these natural forces to remain in effect even when individual creatures get in the way. Likewise by having chosen to give humans a a free will he/she/it has allowed fro the fact that we will make bad choices which is where we get things like Murder, War, Environmental degradation and republicans... It would seem enough to rejoice with the lucky ones and comfort those weren't......but for some.. well they need to fit it into their particular box

    May 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey

    Thank you, 8nVermont. For a long time, there have been some humans who thought.

    May 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ryan

    It's just so sad when humans have to die due weather implications. Too many sensitive people that think they are so special and so fragile. Your NOT!!!

    May 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. praying for them

    my prayers go out to those in joplin. The bloggers speaking of god or ne religion need to stop and focus on the bigger picture, the people in joplin need help. to the bloggers speaking about typos, grow up!

    May 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garsneezo

      Yes, they need help. And praying is NOT help. It's pretending to send psychic messages to Santa (or somebody who looks like him). Stop praying and start doing!

      May 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. arlo

    godisimaginary dot com

    May 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Janet

    If you go check Find Will Norton Facebook page he has been found and he is no longer with us! Pray for his family during this awful time.

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