Identification

The circumstances of many fires (e.g., known occupants of a residence) help direct the identification of the victims. If a recovered body is covered by soot and not severely burned, soot can be cleaned to allow visual recognition of the face and other external features (Fig. 6). Clothing and personal effects, if not burned, can assist in identification

Fig. 7. Charred body. Motor vehicle collision and fire. Identification by personal effects. (A) Left ear. Earring not seen because of charring. (B) Radiograph shows distinctive earrings.
Fig. 8. Color of hair changed by singeing. (See Companion CD for color version of this figure.)

(Fig. 7). Charring obliterates identifying external features. Height reduction caused by heat contraction means that this feature is inaccurate for identification. Hair color changes also affect identification (Fig. 8). Spitz observed gray hair changing to brassy

Fig. 9. Charred body. Finger amputated during autopsy for the purpose of fingerprinting.

blond at about 120°C (250°F [47]). After 10 to 15 min at 205°C (400°F), brown hair acquired a slight reddish hue. Black hair did not change color (47).

Comparative means of identification are used. A clenched hand resulting from heat contracture preserves fingerprints (Fig. 9). If there is tentative identification, any available dental and medical records must be obtained by investigators (Fig. 10). The utility of these records depends on their specificity and accuracy (48). Identification is one role of the radiological examination of a charred body (e.g., evidence of prior surgery, old fracture; (see Subheading 4.3.). If exact matching of antemortem and postmortem information is not possible, then consistencies can still be confirmed by the pathologist and other experts involved (Figs. 6, 11, and 12). If conventional comparison methods are not possible, teeth or bone can be used for DNA analysis (48).

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