Forensic dentists get up to speed on identification of bodies

Posted on April 12, 2019

Forensic Odontologists from South Africa, Brazil, Australia, France, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Iceland, Denmark and Svalbard attended a Plass Data workshp in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The course was held to bring forensic dentists uo to date with the latest version of Plass Data, which is the recognised Interpol program for the indenfication of bodies in large mass disaster situations. The program is able to upload ante-mortem dental data which includes conventional dental records, dental radiographs and clinical photographs and compare them with post mortem material retrieved at the disaster site. The program, although complex, is extremely efficient at making matches, even in cases where ante mortem and post-mortem data seem inadequate. The programme has the capability to search the entire disaster database using a variation of search engines which range from using the entire dentition, to using only one highly characteristic dental feature. This gives it the edge on other DVI programs.

During the course, Prof Herman Bernitz gave a lecture on DVI in Africa. He shared the experiences gained at the Cameroun Air disaster, the Nigerian Church Disaster, the Sundance mining air disaster in the Congo and the Maputo ammunition explosion.  

Prof Herman Bernitz delivered an African perspective on Disaster Victim Identification at the 4th International Continuing Course on the Plass Data computer DVI system version 5.1 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Svalbard was chosen as the venue to stage a mock accident as the course material (ante-mortem and post-mortem records) were from the real life 1996 Russian Boeing 737 plane which crashed while  descending into Svalbard airport, killing 130 passengers and 11 crew.

At 78 degrees north, Svalbard is the inhabited town nearest to the North Pole and is the home to the global seed bank, polar bears, arctic foxes and ptarmigan. Svalbard is so far north that Aurora borealis (or Northern Lights) are in fact viewed to the south of the arctic sky. Winter temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees.


- Author Department of University Relations

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