Those recovering, identifying Maui remains see haunting similarities to 9/11

So far, Maui County has identified 36 victims of the Lahaina fire. A forensic anthropologist who teaches at UH went to Maui to help with the process.
Published: Aug. 26, 2023 at 4:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County has so identified 36 victims of the Lahaina fire.

Dr. Robert Mann, a forensic anthropologist with the University of Hawaii, recently traveled to Maui to assist with identifying bodies and see what else can be done to speed up the process.

While on Maui, Mann said he examined as many as 50 sets of remains.

“Everything that is done in there is done with a purpose and for a purpose,” said Mann. “So, there’s no wasted minutes in there.”

“There’s no sitting around just gabbing and talking about things.”

He worked with a team of forensic pathologists, dentists, and radiologists.

Each body can take from 15 minutes to several hours to examine.

“Far as I know, and from what I’ve seen, personally, they’re not cutting any corners, they’re doing the best they can,” said Mann. “And they’re really trying to balance the speed with the accuracy.”

Mann said he looks for features to determine the age and gender.

Sometimes, they have entire bodies. Sometimes only skeletal and dental remains.

“One thing that I noticed is there was not a whole lot of difference in the completeness and in the condition of the individuals unaccounted for who we were examining,” said Mann.

“There wasn’t a lot of difference in this incident versus 9/11, at the Pentagon, versus other mass fatalities that I’ve worked is very similar.”

Authorities said Friday that urban search and rescue teams were nearly finished searching the burn zone. Agencies are still working to verify hundreds of names on the missing persons list.

They are striving to be accurate and thorough.

“There are people that did the 9/11 search that are on this team,” said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier. “This is something that nobody should ever have to do ... but we’re going to do everything we can to do it right.”