On 19 December 1997, SilkAir Flight MI 185, a Boeing B737-300 airliner crashed into the Musi River near Palembang, Southern Sumatra, enroute from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore. All 104 passengers and crew onboard were killed. Of the human remains recovered, 6 positive identifications were made, including that of one Singaporean. Two of the identifications were by dental records, 2 by fingerprints, 1 by age estimation and 1 by personal effects. This paper describes the crash victim identification of Flight MI 185. The authors were part of an Indonesia-Singapore forensic team deployed for 3 weeks in Palembang to assist the Indonesian authorities in human remains identification.
Our first impression of the Musi River was its huge size. From the air, the river looked as wide as the Straits of Johor (Fig. 1). The rotor blades of the Republic of Singapore Air Force Super Puma helicopter sliced through the air as we flew over the coffee-brown Musi. The river revealed no sign of a crash site, not even an oil spill. However, somewhere beneath the calm waters lay the wreckage of SilkAir Flight MI 185, a Boeing B737-300 jet, which had been carrying 104 passengers and crew (Fig. 2).
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