Chapter 15


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Chapter 15

  1. 1. Fatal Fires and Fire Injuries Chapter 15 © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  2. 2. Objectives• Describe the documentation of victims (live persons) and potential evidence• Describe the documentation of the fatality and the surrounding area• Describe the process of identifying the body• Define who establishes the cause and mechanism of death © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  3. 3. Case Study• A body was found in a car and DNA analysis could not be done until there was a comparison sample – The investigator found teeth at the wreck – A mother called the police to report that her adult son was missing – His circumstances matched, and dental records were found to match also – It was critical to take extra steps and follow scientific methodology © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  4. 4. Introduction• A fire with injuries or a fatality requires more documentation than others – Need to identify how the victims were injured or how and why they died• Path leading to the cause of the fire may lead to a new avenue as the result of the injuries or deaths – Fire may now be a homicide scene © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  5. 5. Preparation for the Investigator• Investigator must be prepared for his or her own emotions• Many public safety organizations have created programs to handle this type of stress – Critical incident stress management • Recommendations for both the psychological and physical health of emergency personnel © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  6. 6. The Scene• Fire scene with an injury or fatality is no different when it comes to the process and procedures• Investigator should notify other law enforcement authorities – Will most likely bring additional resources and expertise to the scene• Cause of death will not be confirmed until after the autopsy © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  7. 7. Dealing with Injury Victims• When there are injuries or fatalities, the first responder investigator should call for an assigned investigator• Assigned investigator should interview the victim as soon as possible• Anything the victim was wearing is evidence – Even gauze or pads used in the treatment of the victim are evidence • May have absorbed residues other than body fluids that may be evidence © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  8. 8. Dealing with Injury Victims (cont’d.)• Steps must be taken to document any injuries• All clothing should be photographed, both damaged and undamaged• Beneficial to have a signed medical information release form © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  9. 9. Fatalities• Investigator needs to contact the hospital to ensure that nothing is cleaned up until the body and belongings are examined for evidence• Some bodies, when found, leave no doubt that the person is dead – Scene must be secured immediately – Nothing should be moved unless absolutely necessary – Assigned investigator must take a complete series of photographs © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  10. 10. Fatalities (cont’d.)– Measurements of the room or area need to be as accurate as possible– Once the scene has been properly documented, a body bag must be brought in and the body collected • All parts of the body with nothing left behind– Then, the scene must be thoroughly examined © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  11. 11. Medical Examiner• When the body is at the morgue, it will be scheduled for an autopsy• The medical examiner will run a series of tests, from a detailed physical examination of the body to a series of X-rays of the full body – Throat and mouth will be examined to see if sooted • No soot indicates that the person died prior to the fire – ME will document the extent of the burns for the report © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  12. 12. Medical Examiner (cont’d.)– Body will be documented for dehydration of the muscle tissue as a result of exposure to heat • Causes the flexing of the muscle and puts the arms in what is referred to as pugilistic attitude– Fingerprints may still identify the victim © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  13. 13. Cause, Manner, and Mechanism of Death• Cause of death is the event that leads to the loss of life – Victim may have died of asphyxiation as the result of inhaling carbon monoxide, but the cause of death was the fire • Asphyxiation was the mechanism of death – Manner of death relates to how entire event was created • Could be a homicide, suicide, accidental, or natural – May not be sufficient evidence © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  14. 14. Delivering the News: Death Notification• Most frequently, the police can assist in delivering the news of the loss of a loved one, even from a fire – In some departments, when it is a fire fatality, the fire department is assigned this task in order to answer any questions from loved ones• Task of death notification should never be taken on alone © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  15. 15. Delivering the News: Death Notification (cont’d.)• Rules to follow – Be honest in the delivery, without false platitudes – Words have to be chosen carefully because they will be remembered for a lifetime – Family needs to know the facts as known about the incident © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning
  16. 16. Summary• There needs to be a thorough examination of the body, the area surrounding the body, and the room in which the body is found• The investigator must have a keen eye and the persistence to go over each and every piece of debris• The medical examiner should be able to provide the identification of the victim as well as the cause, manner, and mechanism of death © 2009 Delmar, Cengage Learning