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.

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“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. fred

    And then there are those who see eye-to-eye with the bible. Especially where it says Jesus is not coming to bring peace, but a sword. And where the bible describes this world's governments as under God's enemies influence, not his. If an powerful and peace-loving alien were to visit our earth, and you were to tell him God is in charge of this mess, that powerful alien may have a word or two for your god. Anyone thinking that it is God who took your child or caused that tornado does not know God, and has him confused with the wicked one who keeps transforming himself into an angel of light in the eyes of the rabble who would rather be blind.

    May 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garsneezo

      I suggest reading any of Dr. Suess' works, they are better written and hang together better.

      May 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      It is a shame that you cannot post something relevant to the story, but instead force your religious views upon others. You are as bad as the militant atheists shoving THEIR views upon others.
      Honestly, I'm REAL tired of both sides.
      I just retired, after over 27 years of military service to this once great nation. I retired after being deployed for nearly 5 years in the middle of the war zone. I'm sick and tired of religious extremists, here and there.
      So, kindly shut up.

      May 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • spot

      God is a shmuck for not doing anything to stop these evil forces

      May 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • LM

      No one is forcing their religious beliefs on anybody by commenting about God or the Bible. You are reading these posts so I assume you have the ability not to read them as well. Regardless of your own religious or non religious beliefs, many people do see disasters as being very Biblical, Karmic, Sins of the Fathers etc. If they are not to you then that should be just as respected by others.

      May 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Miss Anthrope

    Ok, a few thoughts.
    The process of identifying the bodies will take time. As the article pointed out, one family actually identified a victim as their son, only to later realize it was not, indeed, their son.
    This is why the coroner is hesitant to just blindly let relatives into the morgue to try and let the relatives try to identify anyone.
    Not to mention there are probably only pieces of remains in some cases...
    You have all seen the destruction of the buildings, imagine what an F5 tornado can do to a fragile human body.
    Does one really think the tornado is going to leave the bodies whole and intact?
    The reason the coroner is relaxing his stance on protocol is due to the victim's grief-stricken families wanting some closure.

    God has nothing to do with this tragedy, so please stop with the religious debate. It is pointless in the wake of this horrific event.

    My condolences and sympathy to the residents of Joplin and to the victims and families.

    May 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lil Bit

    Going back and forth with each othee wont help the situation forget about a damn typo 500 peole are dead and a lot more is missing focus on that instead of a damn article…some of you cant be serious. Wow thats they way you show love for those that lost everything…SMDH

    May 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • RP

      Making comments on CNN isn't affecting what goes on in Joplin... obviously if you're here, you aren't either.

      May 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      RP, people from Joplin HAVE posted here on CNN since the tornado hit. They're not very happy with the delight that many seem to have over their losses.
      But, screw your fellow citizen, your right to talk smack about someone who just lost family and their homes is far more important than their emotional well being.
      And people wonder WHY I call this a once great nation.
      Now, it's the nation of two year olds, ME ME ME ME ME.
      If JFK were alive today, making his famous speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you..." He'd get a bullet between the eyes before finishing the sentence.
      Foolish children.

      May 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DL

    Cmdr. Sinclair was tasked with presenting Earth's dominant belief system. The other planets had displayed their rituals but he still pondered how best to represent Earth.

    He led the small group into a long hallway with a long line of people standing and he began to introduce each person, one at a time, and stating their faith.

    One was a Hindu. One was an athiest. One was a Muslim. One was a Christian. One was an agnostic. One was an Oglala Souix.. and it went on and on as the camera panned down the long line of HUMANS. ~Babylon 5

    It was one of the most touching moments I ever have seen on television.

    Just thought I'd share.

    May 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      True, it was a great moment of television. Unfortunately, it is fiction. The reality of it is, that long line would be a massive brawl, each one smiting each other over the mercy of their God. 🙁

      May 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Miss Anthrope

    LMAO at you last comment! That's ain't right! Funny, but just soooo wrong!

    May 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey

    Dr. Suess?
    No. Henry James.

    May 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shani

    These stories are horrific, reminds me of 9/11 almost. God Bless these folk.

    May 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      In one way, this is better than 9/11, at least the vast majority will have remains to bury. My cousin's family had nothing left to bury, as he was in the south tower when it fell.

      May 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Charles

    There is no reason why those whose faces are not damaged in an unrecognizable way should be available for viewing so ID can be made quickly. I is cruelty to those who are wondering if my relative, friend or spouse is among the dead.

    May 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Which is more cruel? Making them wait until ID is confirmed? Releasing the wrong body to the wrong family, as HAS happened?

      May 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • LM

      I agree. If it were my child or loved one, I would be in a state of panic wondering if I should continue looking or not. Closure, good, bad or horrific. It should be up to the individuals to decide what they can handle seeing. All that should be needed is the fact you are missing someone, your address (verified or not) and hopefully ID if one still has it. Case by case if you cannot prove who you are.

      May 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. URJustWRong

    "God DID this."

    May 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. prettypath

    Macabre ID method? It is just another bs headline exploiting our morbid curiosity. The ID method is logical, reasonable, and there is nothing macabre about it. If you can describe a tattoo or piercing, that will be considered an acceptable identification method. Thank you. Irresponsible journalists are the ones adding to Joplin's pain.

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

    For shame on all of you who have perverted the reporting of a horrific event to turn it into a pulpit for your own views on religion and humanity. It's time to focus on rallying around the people dealing with the losses that few of us can truly relate to on most levels.

    Leave the BS outside!

    May 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • LM

      People have a right to say their opinion, be it religious or personal views on humanity. Some want to shame others here because what they say does not match their own views or beliefs. That makes not one of us any different then those they are insulting. No one is a moron, idiot, should feel shamed for their opinion or how they feel compared to another. You can always ignore the shock jocks.

      May 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    This is a good example of why people should now be DNA printed at birth. It would help solve crime and help solve issues just like this. Pop a sample into an analyzer and a few hours later you get a database match.

    May 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LM

      A very good reason but there are so many draw backs concerning privacy that comes with that. Yet, I know in child ID kits, you can take a swab and retain for that purpose, so, it really does not have to go into a database. In a Tornado or flood disaster it would be difficult to keep it in a safe place. Good thoughts though.:)

      May 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. macabre body looting

    Those aren't officials checking for ID's! They're your neighbors picking your dead mothers pockets! Hurry up Joplin MO looter! 9pm curfew! Hey! Did you frisk what's left of that little girl?

    May 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. macabre body looting

    During an emergency, looters should be shot on-sight. If non-emergency, ya gotta use arrows, no guns. (shrug)

    May 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nancy

    Instead of arguing your guys religious views you guys should join together and find ways to help these people in need..

    May 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • LM

      In your judging of people you have no proof that they are not indeed helping 'and' posting their opinions.

      May 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
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