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Forensic experts bear stench of cadavers

First Posted 07:59:00 04/11/2010

It?s no ordinary job.

But the forensic group exhuming 39 unclaimed bodies of victims of the sunken MV Princess of the Stars has been persistent in their desire to identify the remains.

Dr. Erwin Erfe, a physician-lawyer and forensic consultant of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), yesterday lamented the stench the group has to endure while cleaning the cadavers dug up from niches at the Carreta Cemetery in Cebu City.

?Our problem is how to deal with the smell, the sight of decaying flesh and body fluids. We don't see this everyday,? Erfe told Cebu Daily News.

The forensic group had to remove the coffins of 39 unclaimed bodies from their tombs before the remains were drenched.

The bones of each cadaver, along with pieces of clothing, were placed in a wooden box

Despite the smell and unlikely sight, Erfe said the group was committed to identify the cadavers.

?We want the bones to be brought to Manila, Erfe said.

The group started exhuming the bodies last Friday and has already dug up 18 cadavers.

The wooden boxes containing the bones of unidentified cadavers are now at the St. Peter's Funeral Homesl.

The group will bring the cadavers to the PAO office in Quezon City in Manila.

Erfe said they also recovered valuables like a ring, bag, and cellphone sim from the cadavers. He said the items would help identify the bodies.

The remains will undergo an anthropological examination by forensic experts from the University of the Philippines.

John Clements, a forensic expert and an odonthologist from Australia, will also help the group identify the cadavers through their teeth.

Erfe noted that 98 percent of the victims of the 2004 tsunami were identified through their teeth, fingerprints and physical evidence.

The unclaimed cadavers were among 820 people on board the ill-fated ship owned by Sulpicio Lines Inc., now known as Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., on June 21, 2008. Only 32 survived.

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