Disasters & Accidents

Panama seeks DNA to identify migrants killed in bus crash

Panama City, Feb 16 (EFE).- Panamanian medical examiners said Thursday that they will need genetic material from the families to identify the 41 migrants from various countries who died in a bus accident.

“The state of the bodies and the lack of pre-mortem data makes the examinations difficult, especially regarding identification, so we will need information from the migrants’ countries of origin … and genetic samples from family members,” the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences said in a statement.

The process of identification “will take time,” the institute said, vowing that “the bodies will be preserved with the due dignity established by international standards.”

Authorities are holding the bodies at the morgue in David, capital of Chiriqui province, located on the border with Costa Rica.

The accident occurred during the wee hours of Wednesday as the bus was transporting 66 migrants from temporary reception stations in the Darien region, on Panama’s border with Colombia, to another facility in Chiriqui.

Aboard the bus were 42 males and 24 females, including 20 minors, according to the Panamanian Attorney General’s Office.

By nationality, the group included 22 Ecuadorians, 16 Haitians, 11 Venezuelans, six Brazilians, two Colombians, two Cubans, one Nigerian and one person from Eritrea.

Authorities have been unable to verify the identity of eight of the injured survivors because they are unconscious and their documents remain scattered at the accident scene, the AG Office said.

The government said that two of the seven minors being treated at the Children’s Hospital in David were in critical condition, while the hospital’s head of medicine, Dr. Johnny Ivan Parra, told a television station that the youngsters who are awake have been asking for their parents.

Early indications, according to Panamanian authorities, are that the bus collided with another vehicle parked on the side of the road before crashing into a ravine.

Last year, a record 248,224 undocumented migrants undertook the difficult passage through the Darien jungle into Panama with hopes of reaching the United States, and an additional 37,000 have made the journey so far in 2023.

Panamanian authorities take the migrants’ biometric data and provide them with food and medical care before bussing them to the Costa Rican border so they can continue their journey. EFE gf-fa/dr

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