In just under a week after the tragic accident at the National Championship Air Races, the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office completed positive scientific identifications and examinations of eleven victims dying as a result of the incident.
Washoe County’s Chief Medical Examiner and Coroner, Dr. Ellen Clark, says, “With a small staff working round-the-clock, the Reno office did an amazing job of identifying the bodies, communicating with families, and preparing victims for release back to families. In doing so we remained strongly committed to providing personal care and assistance to the deceased and theses grief stricken families.”
On Friday, September 16, 2011, veteran Air Races pilot Jimmy Leeward’s P-51 Mustang crashed on the tarmac killing eleven persons, including the pilot. Nearly sixty other spectators suffered injuries in the accident.
Clark indicates that the Medical Examiner used fingerprints, forensic odontology, medical x-ray evaluation and DNA technology to identify the victims and expediently release them back to families. The Medical Examiner’s Office did the identification work locally with the help of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Crime Lab, which rapidly processed the DNA materials, a Reno based forensic dentist, who began dental examinations the weekend of the crash, and the special processing unit of the FBI, which assisted with fingerprint comparisons.
“There was an extraordinary community and regional response to the accident. Much of the response was facilitated through locally managed emergency preparedness programs and regional trainings for mass casualty and fatality response”, says Clark. “There are so many agencies to be thanked and commended.”
Among departments that assisted with case investigation, and victim recovery and examinations are the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Investigations Section and DNA Laboratory, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Reno Police Department, Nevada Department of Public Safety Investigations Division, Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe County’s Medical Reserve Corp, Clark County’s Coroner’s Office, and the Washoe County Citizen Emergency Response Team.
For further information on the Medical Examiner, please visit the department’s website at http://www.washoecounty.us/coroner .