BATON ROUGE- The Department of Health and Hospitals today reports two milestones have been achieved at the Victim Identification Center in Carville. According to Dr. Louis Cataldie, state medical examiner, the number of unidentified human remains is now less than 100, with one of the newly identified being the body of Mrs. Ethel Herbert.
Although the family of Herbert has been searching for information about her whereabouts since September, it was following a conversation between Herbert’s daughter, Denise, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco at a meeting in Atlanta in January that officials could make a preliminary identification.
Cataldie says it was this meeting that led his team of forensic experts in Carville to tentatively identify a body in the Carville morgue as that of Herbert. This initial identification then allowed a team of DNA experts at the Find Family National Call Center in Baton Rouge to begin researching a family tree of Herbert’s relatives. A family tree is used to determine from which relatives to seek DNA samples in order to attempt a positive identification.
“Ultimately, the DNA team requested and got DNA samples from four of Mrs. Herbert’s children,” Cataldie explained. “From these samples and the resulting scientific analysis, we then positively identified the remains of Mrs. Herbert.”
As of today, 27 identifications have resulted from DNA analysis. Cataldie reminds families that even in spite of it taking almost four months to secure the funding for DNA analysis, this process is still somewhat lengthy.
“Although many individuals provided DNA samples months ago, this case illustrates how we need to get DNA samples from several family members in order to ensure a positive identification,” he added.
With the identification of Herbert, whose body will be released from the Victim Identification Center this week, and several others, there are now only 96 unidentified bodies or remains at the Carville site. Of these, there are tentative identifications for at least 36 of the bodies.
“I realize we still have a long way to go, but breaking the barrier of having less than 100 unidentified bodies is a morale victory for the staff at the morgue who have worked tirelessly to reunite families,” he said.
The most recent statistics from the Carville Victim Identification Center are included below.
Also, these statistics, and those from the Find Family Call Center, are updated daily. They can be found at www.katrinamissing.dhh.louisiana.gov.
Feb. 8, 2006:
Updated Number of Deceased Victims Recovered Following Hurricane Katrina
Recovered Bodies – At this time, state officials, working in conjunction with coroners from local parishes, have recovered 1,102 bodies.
Victim Identification Center (Carville) Totals:
909 – Total bodies examined at the morgue
691 – Released to Families
120 – Ready to be released; attempting to locate family members
2 – Identified; not ready for release
96 – Identity unknown (decreased from 114 on 1/30/2006)
Released Bodies – On Jan. 30, DHH reported 678 bodies had been released to families. Today, that number has been updated to 691 released bodies
668 – Storm-related deaths (see attachment.)
23 – Medical examiner cases not storm-related
Demographic Breakdown of the 668 Storm-Related Deaths:
Race: African-American - 355 bodies (52% of total); Asian-Pacific – 5 (1%); Caucasian – 290 bodies (44%); Hispanic – 15 (2%); Native American – 2 (<1%); Other – 1 (< 1%.)
Gender: 341 males (52%), 327 females (48%).
Parish of Residence: Jefferson – 28, Orleans – 507, Plaquemines – 3, St. Bernard – 118, St. Tammany – 2, Washington – 1, unknown – 3, out of state – 3, St. John – 1, East Baton Rouge – 2.
Deceased Victims Reported by Other Parish Coroners:
Ascension – 9
Assumption – 3
East Baton Rouge – 72
Iberia – 6
Jefferson – 30
Lafourche – 2
Livingston – 5
Plaquemines – 3
St. Charles – 8
St. Tammany – 7
Tangipahoa – 26
Terrebonne – 19
West Baton Rouge – 3