O0042 - Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 crash - How identified several thousands fragments of bodies in only six week using an innovative cost effective high throughput DNA analysis workflow developed by the Forensic Science laboratory

PS05 - Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) and Road Safety

Date :
Wednesday 29th August          


Schedule :
14h20 - 14h40

Job title of the first author:

Forensic expert - Forensic Department "Biology and Genetic", IRCGN


Germanwings flight 4U 9525 took off from Barcelona Airport in Spain heading for Dusseldorf, Germany, with 150 people on board at 9:00 GMT on 24 March 2015. At 9:30, the autopilot is manually changes from 38,000 ft to 100 ft, the Airbus A320 descended at a rate of about 3-4000 ft per minute above the French coast. The last radar contact was at 9:47 GMT at 6,175 ft. The plane hit the mountain of the French Alps at 700 km/h. The Death of all the passengers was instant and bodies fragmented.


Immediately after the crash, IRCGN was involved for manage the identification process of the victims. Especially in this case, when traditional techniques based on anthropological and physical characteristics of the victims failed, DNA appears to be a gold standard for disaster victim identification. The high throughput DNA unit for reference samples of the IRCGN specialized in DNA identification of living human based on the analysis of more than 135,000 samples DNA from buccal cells deposited on FTA® paper per year, set up a new protocol to speed up post mortem identification of disaster victim remains.

Material & methods:

Biological samples are recovered from the fragments of bodies with a swab and transferred to FTA paper for collection in crash site, and shipment at room temperature to the laboratory. Analysis was done using an high throughput automated liquid handling process including the Smart D-N-Adem-Kit (Ademtech) to purify and normalize the amount of DNA and GlobalFiler PCR amplification kit (ThermoFisher).


This approach enables to reach 95% of first pass success rate compare to 84% with a standard direct amplification protocol. In addition, optimized PCR master mix volume from 10μl to 2μl greatly reduces the cost of analysis while maintaining high quality of STR profiles.


Using this workflow, 86% of near than 3000 fragments of bodies collected was analyzed leading to identification of all the victims in only 6 week.


DVI, Normalization, Sucess rate



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