(Vienna, 11-09-2015) The Department of Forensic Medicine of the Medical University of Vienna has now completed all the investigations ordered by the Eisenstadt Public Prosecutor on the 71 victims who were found dead on 27 August 2015 in a sealed lorry on the A4. As agreed with the Eisenstadt Public Prosecutor (StA), Vienna Forensic Medicine has released the autopsied bodies of the 71 victims for burial.
The post-mortem report and the results of all the investigations were sent to the Eisenstadt Public Prosecutor on 10 September 2015. Daniele U. Risser, Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Medical University of Vienna commented: “Our department had to work extremely fast, as this human catastrophe was totally exceptional. I would like to thank everyone involved for their marvellous work.”
He continued: “After the fire in the hotel in Augarten in 1979, with 25 deaths, this was certainly the greatest challenge to our Department in recent history.” Even though the corpses were in an advanced state of decay from the heat and storage and this restricted the use of specific methods, the Department could present an unambiguous report.
A professional investigation must be based on clearly defined areas of authority
The Public Prosecutor commissioned Daniele Risser to prepare a post-mortem report. Christina Stein, expert in molecular biology and Head of the Central Forensic DNA Laboratory at the Medical University of Vienna, was commissioned to analyse the DNA samples taken from the corpses.
Risser headed a multidisciplinary 27-member team, consisting of 17 members of the staff of Vienna Forensic Medicine, together with experts on forensic toxicology, chemistry and dentistry, as well as specialists in virology and bacteriology, internal medicine and pulmonary diseases. A specialist in Arabic from Vienna University supported the team by translating documents found on the victims. During the first week, essential support was provided by the crime scene team, mainly from the State Criminal Police of Burgenland, Lower Austria and Vienna. Up to 20 detectives were involved in local inspection and in taking the victims from the lorry, as well as securing the evidence and documenting the findings in the post-mortems in the Vienna Department of Forensic Medicine. As many of the victims were unknown, investigations were performed by the DVI Team (Disaster Victim Identification Team) under the Home Office.
Corpses exposed to intense heat
It was difficult to get a refrigerated lorry to the crime scene, in order to assure that the corpses were cooled at once and before transfer to the Department of Forensic Medicine in Vienna. None of the companies asked by the police were capable of providing such a lorry, so that the victims had to be transported in the Hungarian lorry, escorted by the police, first to an ASFINAG site in Parndorf and from there to the former border veterinary office in Nickelsdorf. Risser commented: “Unfortunately, as a result of this delay, the putrefaction process became more advanced.” While still in the Hungarian lorry, the victims were individually marked to avoid subsequent confusion. They were then photographed and placed in a body bag in the refrigerated rooms in the border veterinary station, which had been specially started up for this purpose. During the morning of August 28, one day after the lorry had been found, the victims were transferred with the help of Vienna undertakers to Vienna Central Cemetery for further cooled storage.
From there, they were transferred in groups of ten to the Department of Forensic Medicine in the Sensengasse. After ten post-mortems had been completed, several transports were carried out from the Department of Forensic Medicine. The autopsied victims were taken back to the Central Cemetery. Samples were sent for toxicological and chemical investigation. Clothing and other materials from the victims were sent to the DVI detectives working in Nickelsdorf.
Contact for family
If you think one of your relatives may be among the victims, please ring up the special hotline (Tel.: 05 9133 103 333) or send an e-mail (email@example.com) to Burgenland Police Headquarters, State Criminal Agency, Shift staff (press office continuously open), Neusiedler Straße 84, 7000 Eisenstadt, Burgenland.
For all enquiries about the criminal case itself, please contact the Press Officer of the Eisenstadt Public Prosecutor, Mag. Verena Strnad, 0676 898 92 30 64, firstname.lastname@example.org .