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Multiple deaths caused by a fire in a factory: identification and investigative issues

Vilma Pinchi, Viola Bartolini, Elisabetta Bertol, Martina Focardi, Francesco Mari, Ugo Ricci, Stefano Vanin, Gian Aristide Norelli


The article presents a case of multi-causalities after a fire in a textile factory that required a complete DVI team intervention similar to large mass-disaster, because of the specific operational and identification difficulties.

The autopsy results were consistent with death by fire, and the toxicological investigations revealed it was due to carbon monoxide in 4 cases (HbCO% ranging between 88,05 and 95,77), 2 people died for cyanide intoxication (with concentrations between 5,17 and 8,85 mcg/ml), in one case there was a synergistic effect of the two substances (carbon monoxide and cyanide).

The identification, carried out in accordance with INTERPOL protocols, encountered the biggest complications in the AM, due to two main factors: a language barrier but specifically the lack of any previous medical information of the victims. Secondary identifiers  proved to be very useful for the correlation of possible identities, however, in every case, at least one of the primary identifiers was satisfied and thanks to the joint effort and the participation of a team of experts all the identities were ascertained.

This work demonstrated that the establishment of the DVI teams and the deployment of a multidisciplinary team of forensic experts well acquainted with DVI procedures is essential, especially for multi-causality cases with foreigner victims, in order to ascertain the cause of death and for victim's identification. It is also desirable that the identification team intervenes for both PM examinations as well as supporting the police in contacting families and collecting the AM data on the missing people.


Carbonization; Identification; Charred Bodies; DVI; Multidisciplinary approach


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