Baton Rouge- Following the deactivation of Victim Identification Center in Carville, La. last week by the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, the process to identify and release human remains attributed to Hurricane Katrina will continue from Orleans Parish.
Last week, the Orleans Parish coroner’s office, working with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, began the process of moving this critical function from Carville to New Orleans. This move created a slight delay in releasing some human remains to family members, but the operation should be up and running smoothly as early as tomorrow, said Dr. Louis Cataldie, state medical examiner with DHH.
“Prior to leaving Louisiana, DMORT was in charge of the effort to alert families when a deceased loved one had been identified,” said Cataldie. “DMORT then coordinated the release of the human remains to the appropriate funeral home. Beginning tomorrow, the Orleans coroner will coordinate this effort.”
As DMORT began withdrawing from the Carville facility, they placed all human remains still at the Center, including both identified and unidentified remains, into 205 caskets that were securely loaded into trucks. The remains are being transported to New Orleans today, with the release of the remains to family members beginning Tuesday.
“We will continue to assist the Orleans coroner’s office with both the identification process and the release of the remains to the funeral homes designated by families,” said Cataldie. “In the meantime, we ask families to continue to be patient. We understand their frustrations but want to offer assurances that officials at all levels are working together to reunite families.”
John Gagliano of the Orleans coroner’s office says the phone number 707-310-2778 will be operational this week for families to call in order to coordinate releases. Additional numbers will be publicized through this office as they become available.
“We’ve been working since last week to develop a process that helps families as they attempt to get possession of their loved ones’ remains,” Gagliano said. “For the families of deceased Orleans Parish residents, they or a representative from their designated funeral home can call our phone number to coordinate the release.”
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness helped coordinate with FEMA, LDH and Orleans Parish in the effort to find a suitable location to store the remains as well as to ensure the safe transport of the remains to that location in Orleans Parish.