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. macabre body looting

    Look around Nancy. A lot of people are in need everywhere, not just the latest catastrophe. Now if I can just hinder one of Joplin's looters...just one.

    May 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jeebus

    what a horrible message.... 'god saved us =)' those 132 must have been atheists.

    May 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      You know that was not the intent of the spray-painted words. Please don't use this tragedy as an excuse to push your personal agenda. There is pain enough already...save the religious debates for other message boards and allow the survivors to work out their grief in the best ways they know how.

      May 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      I agree with stormsun.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lu Ann

      I agree as well. Don't make it any worse. If these people were saved that's great, if they want to believe that they were saved by God that's great too.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      However, anyone that lost a loved one will certainly not read a very positive message there. It is an ignorant statement in the extreme. The implication is quite clear. The people in this house were favored by god and those that died were not.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Danielle

    I understand that people are anxious to claim their family members bodies, but they need to have some patience. It's better for the coroner to make sure that the identifications are correct. Let them do their jobs, and your loved ones can be laid to rest. This is a real example of human nature.....

    May 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • APerson

      Unfortunately, those people are not in their right states of mind. Some of them are searching for loved ones that they were separated from during the tornado, and many of them lost pretty much everything and after being completely terrified for almost half an hour, emerged to find what looks like a nuclear bomb went off. Add a missing loved one to that list, and a lot of hindering but completely necessary procedures, and you're not going to have someone who has much - if any at all - patience left. Many are not capable of dealing with that kind of situation without failing to control many aspects of their emotions.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mailliam

    Not to be morbid, but with the importance being the recovery of human remains, the state police/National Guard need to employ thermal imaging at night to search for congregating scavenger birds, or mammals that feed on carrion; G_d rest all of their souls.

    May 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NamCbtVet

    Typical red state "we don't care about people" administration.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      With all due respect, please show some compassion for the people who have survived this horrible disaster. This isn't the right place for political partisanship – whether you believe you are conservative or liberal.

      May 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob

    god saved you? seems like he didnt care about the rest of the people who were blown away...

    May 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      Regardless of your personal feelings, spiritually, you are showing precious little regard for the feelings of people who have already lived through a terrible ordeal. Your remarks come across as callous and insensitive; is that the way you want to represent yourself? You have better things to offer the world, I think, than salt rubbed into terrible wounds.

      May 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      It would seem to me that those that wrote the message in the picture are the ones that are rubbing salt in the wounds of those that lost loved ones. It is an incredibly insensitive message to display in that location.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. anomonyus

    What an AMAZING statement!...God saved us=). Whether we are in the valley(hard times of life) or a mountain( the good times) God is always with us. We just have to look to him. I encourage everyone to pray for these unfourtuate people, along with the many other people who have been affected by the tornados
    during the past few weeks. Also if you are somewhat close to this area and can afford it, go out and make a difference. What I mean by making a difference is to go out and help with the relief efforts or simply donate. Everyone can do something, even a simple prayer can make a difference. God bless yaw:)

    May 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      anonymous...what's wrong with you? if god loved any of you he would not selectively kill people. you religious people are disgusting

      May 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carly

      Funny how stormnsun tells everyone who questions the "god saved us" message not to push their personal agenda on residents, but leaves this one, which takes an EQUALLY polarizing view on religion, alone. Telling. Be consistent, not hypocritical.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      You're right, I'm being inconsistent. But "anonymous" did not criticize the beliefs of others, he offered encouragement to all of us to make a positive difference in the world. Please feel free to make whatever comment or contribution you can to increase civility and the spirit of cooperation in our society.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • abe froman

      Bob-your intolerance towards people of faith is what is disgusting. I bet you have a tolerance and coexist bumperstickers on your car. I would tell you to go to hell,but you are well on your way. Instead I will pray for you.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      I find that an extremely selfish sentiment in light of the tragedy that befell so many of their neighbors. I guess god either had it in for the others or just didn't care about them. Is there any other possible interpretation?

      May 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Iamwightyouarewong

    You vowted foh Ohbama, not me. Even I know enuff to see Jesus nor his believers would wun foe pwesident or king. Sumboddy pwetending would though. And YOU voted foe this supposed 'man of god' so it's YOUR mess too. Cwean it up aweady.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • julia

      It sure didn't take very long for this natural disaster to become Obama's fault, did it?

      May 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      This is just sad. Take your polical diatribes to another site, would you? This isn't the place for it. Try a bit of compassion. If YOUR family and home had been destroyed, would you really want to hear someone's political rhetoric right about now? I'm sure you would not. Here is an idea: treat people, online or in person, as you would like them to treat you. That isn't a political statement, nor a religious message. It's just a good idea for those who would like to see more compassion and cooperation in the world.

      May 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mander

      Just like it didn't take long for Katrina to be Bush's fault?

      May 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bob

    anonymous...what's wrong with you? if god loved any of you he would not selectively kill people. you religious people are disgusting

    May 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. gung hoe

    My thoughts and prayers goes out to all yall but please have more class than to wish this kind of thing on anyone else luv ya

    May 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Adam Sawransky

    God Bless all that were effected.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    Hopefull, the Newton County, Missouri coroner is an elected position ALONG with you nutty Governor, both should be fired and run out of the state for the idiotic handling of this disaster. Secret morgue with roadblocks? – Citizens of Joplin, you are still Americans. Assemble and march to the morgue and demand access to your family members. Anderson Cooper knows where it is.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Suzy

    To say "God saved us" implies that He chose not to save the others who died. What a horrible thing for the families of the dead to read.

    As far as speeding up the identification of remains, unless you've been in this situation, you have NO IDEA how hard it can be. Many of these poor victims are probably in numerous pieces or were battered by debris to the point of being completely unrecognizable. The coroners are doing the best they can.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • E1980J

      To say God Saved Us does indeed imply that He chose not to save the others, and accurately so. The Bible is clear. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. He is omnipotent. NOTHING happens that God does not allow to happen, even if it may not be His perfect will. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Who are we to question God? He is sovereign! My heart goes out to all of those who lost loved ones, and I pray for their strength and for God to give them grace. Our lives are but a vapor. Those of us who are still here should cherish it all the more, and focus on the important things of life because we never know when we will breathe our last breath.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      "He is omnipotent. NOTHING happens that God does not allow to happen, even if it may not be His perfect will. "

      That statement completely contradicts itself. Which is it? Does god control everything or do things happen against his will?

      May 28, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • E1980J

      It is in no way contradictory. He has the power and authority to choose what happens and what doesn't. But back to the article and topic at hand....

      May 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      You're the one that went off topic.
      So, what did you mean by "even if it may not be His perfect will. " ?

      Claiming that a contradictory statement is not complementary and then attempting to divert the responses from your original diversion is quite disingenuous. Please explain how a contradictory statement is not contradictory.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. epona

    what a terribly insensitive thing to paint on your house. What about that man the lost both his babies or that woman who lost her son. Did God have something against them? Were they not as worthy as you. I am usually open minded, but this time you can cram you bible up your ass.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mander

      Maybe God just decided to call a few home early? Death isn't always a bad thing, There is suffering for the families but there comes a time when they are reunited. The eternal life they are facing now is better then the pain on Earth.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      Well, certainly the people in that house seem pretty happy to have avoided an early date with eternal "happiness"...
      Something tells me that very few are celebrating the sudden "gift of heaven" that was bestowed upon their loved ones.
      Death isn't always a bad thing? Well, I'll agree if everyone that died in the tornado was in the final stages of a painful/debilitating terminal disease. Otherwise, I think death is pretty much always a bad thing. Oh yeah, killing a terminally ill patient without their consent is pretty much murder. You have one great god you believe in. Wow.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. abe froman

    Bob- it is unfortunate that you are so closed minded to the thought of religion. I bet you have a tolerance and coexist bumper sticker though. I could tell you to go to hell ,but you are already on your way.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
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