The recent investment by the Gauteng Department of Health in the Forensic Pathology Digital Fingerprint System has already yielded significant results. The innovative technology was able to identify additional fire victims from Johannesburg’s inner-city building blaze, providing crucial closure for families of the deceased.
Identifying Additional Fire Victims
The building fire claimed the lives of 77 people, with 62 initially deemed unidentifiable. However, the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) was able to successfully identify 11 more individuals using the digital fingerprint system. Autopsies and thorough body examinations allowed for an additional seven bodies to be recognized by their families through distinctive features such as tattoos and other markings.
Ongoing Identification Efforts
While the system has identified 30 out of 77 victims, there are still 44 unidentifiable bodies. The South African Police Service Victim Identification Centre unit is currently conducting Antemortem swabs from families and cross-referencing them with DNA samples from unidentified bodies. As of September 8, the number of collected bodies has risen from 12 to 20.
The Forensic Pathology Digital Fingerprint System was revealed in July 2023 for use in identifying deceased bodies at the province’s 11 FPS mortuaries. The system utilizes biometric scanners and allows third-party access to databases from the Department of Home Affairs, South African Police Service, and National Credit Bureau.
Integration with SADC Population Registers
Premier Panyaza Lesufi and MEC for Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko met with Southern African Development Countries (SADC) to discuss integrating the digital fingerprint system with SADC population registers. This integration would provide a better solution to the issue of undocumented immigrants at forensic pathology services mortuaries.
Hotline for Families
The Gauteng Provincial Government has provided a hotline number for families to make inquiries. Families can call the toll-free hotline number at 0800 203 886 or direct lines on 0113553048 / 0112415707. Alternatively, families can visit the Diepkloof mortuary located at 2 Collinder Road Berthsam, Diepkloof, Soweto (behind Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital).
The Forensic Pathology Digital Fingerprint System has proven its immense value, not only in identifying deceased individuals but also in providing closure for families. This investment has the potential to revolutionize forensic pathology, not just in South Africa but also in the surrounding Southern African Development Countries.