It’s a grim task

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Connecting lost loved ones with families is a painstaking process for the large disaster victim identification (DVI) unit in Christchurch. 

Forensic policewoman Karina Pomykaj from Perth, has been trawling through collapsed structures – last Saturday she was based at the CTV building, where more than 100 people were killed. 

“It’s pretty devastating,” she tells Mountain Scene

“We’re still finding bits and pieces like jewellery, and if we can find the owners hopefully that will give some closure to the families.” 

Meanwhile, Queenstown senior sergeant John Fookes has been based at Burnham Military Camp working with the “reconciliation” phase of DVI. 

“We try to match up bodies that have been recovered and try to establish their identity,” he says. 

While it’s hard for families to have to wait so long for names of the deceased to be confirmed, it’s crucial to get it right, Fookes adds. 

“There are pathologists, forensic dentists, DNA specialists, scientists, about 100 police staff, there are guys from overseas – to see how they are integrated and how they produce a result, it gives you a lot of confidence in the 
system when you see it in action.”