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Victorian Bushfires FAQs - Your Family Member
Knowing where a person died is an important piece of information that is sometimes useful in assisting the identification process. However, we know that at the height of the fires people may have moved between houses and other locations, such as cars and other vehicles. This means it is too risky to rely only on where a person was located to identify them.
The medical and scientific examinations of people who died in the bushfires will be focused primarily on making positive identifications. In some cases, it may be possible to provide further information about what has happened.
Wherever possible, the Coroners Court of Victoria will try to provide that information if requested in writing.
Because of the enormity of this tragedy, the State Coroner decided to implement the DVI protocol as soon as it became known that a large number of people had died.
This means that a scientific identification must occur as well as looking at the circumstances in which each person died. Scientific identification means there where possible, a deceased person is matched to their dental and medical records or fingerprints or finding a DNA match.
In some cases, this may take many months. But it is very important to do this to avoid a mistaken identification and all the further heartbreak this would cause a family.
According to the DVI protocol, in the case of a disaster (such as a plane accident, where all of the deceased are found in the one area) all the victims of the disaster must be identified before any will be released.
What happened in the Victorian bushfires is different. There were a number of fires and the areas where the fires occurred were often very widespread. The State Coroner has taken this into account in deciding to release bushfire victims based on ease of identification.
This means is that those people that are most easily identified are coming before the Identification Boards and being identified and authorised for release ahead of those whose identification is more complex and will take longer.
This will depend on how easy it is to identify each of your family members. For instance, the scientific experts may or may not be able to get a DNA sample from all of your family members. Or there may be a dental match in one case but not another. If this is the case, one may be identified and authorised for release before the others.
Once we have been able to give you more information, you can decide whether you might want your funeral director to collect only one of them or wait until they are all ready to be released.
You should speak to your funeral director about this. Because of the identification process for a disaster such as this, no one will be able to come to the Coronial Services Centre to view their loved ones. Your funeral director can give you advice about whether or not you should see your loved one following their identification and release.
Unfortunately, these deaths are subject to two different processes.
The family member who died in the fires is part of the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) process and must be identified through this process.
Your other family member, on the other hand, survived the fires and was able to be identified in hospital when they were still alive. In this second case, the normal process of identification, not the DVI process applies.