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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-5

Toxicological findings in occupants of a crashed commercial aircraft and the legal implications on personal injuries claims

1 Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria
2 Nebraska Institute of Forensic Science, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. John Oladapo Obafunwa
Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, 1-5 Oba Akinjobi Way, Ikeja, Lagos
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/atp.atp_35_18

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Background: A commercial aircraft operated by DANA Air crashed just outside the Lagos International Airport, Nigeria, killing a total of at least 150 people. The crash was accompanied by a fire outbreak. There were no survivors. There is a consideration that some victims might have survived for some time and consequently suffered agonal pain. Materials and Methods: Postmortem examination for the purpose of disaster victim identification, and determination of the cause of death was carried out for the first time in the country. Part of the mass disaster investigation entailed toxicological studies conducted on bodies that were fairly well preserved, and where body fluids were available. A total of 148 victims were positively identified and toxicological samples could only be obtained from 82 of them, comprising the blood, urine, vitreous, and marrow. One hundred and twenty-one samples were collected and of this, only 74 were sufficient for analysis. Results: Toxicology revealed postmortem endogenous alcohol production in 30 victims. Although 27 victims showed morphological features suggestive of carbon monoxide poisoning, only 4 revealed significantly elevated levels of carboxyhemoglobin saturation. Discussion: Some of the victims were apparently alive for some time in the fire that followed the crash, and probably suffered pain during this agonal period. This paper discusses the relevant aspects of personal injury claims and further damages under the Montreal Convention as it relates to possible pain and suffering. Conclusion: The authors opine that the next-of-kin of the victims might be entitled to some compensation based on agonal pain and other loses.

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