Spain Punishes Officers for Body Misidentification

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
By George Hatcher

George’s Point of View

After 30 bodies were misidentified and sent to the wrong grieving families, General Vicente Navarro received a three year sentence; and Commander Jose Ramirez and Captain Miguel Saez received 18-month sentences.

Some of the bodies had to be exhumed so that the misidentification could be verified.

Sixty-two soldiers died in the Yak-42 crash in Turkey on May 26, 2003. Imagine how the families felt. First they have to suffer the deaths. Then almost half of the victims were misidentified. And remember to the families, these weren’t random victims. They were husbands and sons.

Imagine how the families felt when they had to dig up their husbands and sons and have the remains crosschecked with dental records and DNA samples. It probably wasn’t limted to 30, either; they probably exhumed all the victims except for whichever ones might have been visually recognizable by family members.

One wonders if the buck stopped in the right place. Was the decision not to perform DNA/Dental verification really made by General Vicente Navarro or was it a decision that was passed down to him from defence minister Federico Trillo? Isn’t there a public policy of aviation procedure in cases such as this? My question is not whether the sentence is just, but whether the right individual was sentenced.

Carelessness of this profundity goes beyond cruelty.

If I were a Spanish lawyer or on the Ministerio de Fomento, Civil Aviation, I’d be going through policies with a fine toothed comb. I’d love to hear from Madrid to find out just exactly what they’ve done in the past three years to prevent this kind of inhuman treatment in the future.

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