Local February 16, 2023 | 1:00 pm

Panama requests genetic data to identify deaths in accident with migrants

The Panamanian forensics announced on Thursday that they need genetic information to identify the victims of a bus accident involving illegal migrants that occurred on Wednesday in the country’s west, leaving at least 40 dead and scores injured, including at least 15 in critical condition. “The status of the bodies and the lack of antemortem evidence make expert analyses problematic, especially with regard to identification,” the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences noted. The forensic institute stated that the identification process “would take time,” but that “in the interim, the corpses will be treated with the proper dignity mandated by international norms.”

The bodies, many of them dismembered due to the ferocity of the accident, as reported by the authorities, are in the facilities of the David Judicial Morgue, the capital of the province of Chiriqui, on the border with Costa Rica and located about 450 kilometers from the Panamanian capital. The bus was left without a roof, destroyed, with the seats scattered on the floor at the scene of the accident, a trunk road that leads to the Gualaca migrant shelter, the last point that irregular travelers touch in Panama before leaving for Costa Rica on the framework of the state operation “controlled flow”. Panama receives irregular migrants who cross the Darién jungle, Colombia’s natural border, at migration reception stations (ERM), where they collect biometric data and provide health and food assistance before being transferred by bus to the Costa Rican border, where they continue on their way to North America.

The bus driver, who also perished, lost control and crashed into a hollow near the shelter for unknown reasons. The vehicle would have collided with at least one fixed object as well as another public transportation vehicle parked on a hillside. According to the information provided by the authorities, the bus carried 66 migrants. Maria Isabel Saravia, deputy head of the National Migration Service (SNM), stated last night at a press conference that there were 20 minors aboard the bus, a number of whom she did not specify died. According to medical sources, a dozen children aged 5 to 11 have been injured, with three of them in critical condition in a children’s hospital in David (Panama), while 23 adults aged 15 and up have been injured, with 12 in critical condition in the intensive care unit.


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Paul Tierney
February 17, 2023 12:51 pm

This is sad and tragic. The coach must have been of two levels to have a capacity of 66. The Gualaca migrant center is a bit out of the way to process migrants for a trip to the north. They would have to depart the center on the trunk road to David, connect to the Pan-American Highway and proceed to the shared border crossing with Costa Rica at Paso Cano which is the nearest to David. Wonder what made the driver lose control? Also, if the migrant center collects biometric information of the migrants why is there a need for genetic information? Are some of the bodies so injured there is no way to collect their biometrics? Sad! If officials have a list of all those who were on the bus there should be some manner to investigate and explore for relatives to obtain genetics (DNA).

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Tierney