The recovery of skeletal remains from a burned vehicle scenario
Springman, Shana J.
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Forensic archaeology applies archaeological methods to crime scenes which provides better documentation and a more complete recovery of skeletal remains. It is important to have a recovery protocol for burned vehicle scenarios that will help to recover more skeletal remains and aid in the investigative process. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) remains and pig (Sus scrofa) mandibles were burned in two recycled vehicles. Recovery protocols outlined by previous researchers and screening methods were tested in this study to determine the most effective recovery method to be used in a burned vehicle scenario. Screening methods that were tested include wet screening, dry screening, 1/4-inch mesh, and 1.0 mm mesh screen sizes. A univariate ANOVA test was conducted using the total mass percentages of skeletal remains recovered from each separate screening method. The p value from this statistical test was 0.938 and was not significant. The results demonstrated that no individual screening method was significantly more effective than another screening method even though more skeletal remains were recovered using wet screening and 1.0 mm mesh screen size. The recovery of identified skeletal remains was tested by comparing the total mass percentage of identified skeletal remains recovered between wet and dry screening methods. The p value for this univariate ANOVA test was 0.421. Neither wet or dry screening methods were statistically more effective when recovering identifiable skeletal fragments during the comparative process, but wet screening overall recovered more identifiable skeletal remains. Based on the results of this study, it is recommended that recovery protocols used in a burned vehicle scenario include using personal protective equipment to prevent inhaling toxins from the burned vehicles. Further, the vehicle should be split into zones for recovery to facilitate proper documentation of the skeletal remains. The large burned car debris should be removed from above and around the immediate area of the skeletal remains. Larger identifiable skeletal remains should be recovered first, placed in labeled bags, and placed in a container for transportation to the laboratory. Smaller skeletal remains and ash matrix should be recovered using a small soft bristle brush and small make-up brushes, and the ash should be swept into a dust pan for removal from the vehicle. The ash matrix should be placed in a large bucket and covered with a lid when excavation is complete so that the bucket can be safely transported to an area where the remains can be screened. Screening methods should include the use of wet screening and a smaller screen size than 1/4-inch, such as 1/8-inch or 1.0 mm mesh screen sizes.