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Grim Task For Dental Disaster Team With AM-Plane Crash Bjt

August 21, 1987

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) _ The positive identification of victims from the nation’s second-worst air crash has been left in part to a team of dentists formed only three months ago in the hope it would never go to work.

″It’s something I’ve had a lot of training to do - but you’re never, ever really prepared for what we saw,″ said Richard Fox, a member of the Dental Disaster Team that has been at the scene of Sunday’s crash of Northwest Flight 255 since early Monday.

Fox has all but put his dental practice on hold while he and 18 other dentists work to match the teeth of up to 158 victims with their last known dental records.

Fox and dentist Alan Warnick formed the disaster team three months ago with the endorsement of the Michigan Dental Association.

Fox, from suburban Oakland County, said time is of the essence because the families of the dead are waiting.

″We have no idea whose body it is,″ he said. ″We have an idea of who is on the plane, and then we try to find the name which goes with each dental record.″

Their job involved taking a charting and an X-ray of the victim’s teeth and jaws. Working from a passenger manifest isn’t always helpful because an unknown number of passengers were traveling on tickets transferred to them.

Post-mortem records were completed and awaited matching with dental charts supplied by family dentists, Fox said.

Despite the nature of the task, Fox said he has found some satisfaction in the task.

″There is a certain sense of satisfaction that you’ve been able to help a family member,″ he said. ″I’ve spoken to some of the fathers and when we were able to tell them we had an ID on their child they were relieved. It’s a funny sort of relief, but it helps them end the uncertainty.″

Fox has done forensic dental work for the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office for seven years.

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