Coroner to meet with quake victim families

6:46 pm on 31 March 2011

The Chief Coroner is to meet with the families of Christchurch earthquake victims about what to do if bodies can't be identified.

The bodies of 12 of the 181 people believed to have died have still not been formally identified.

The 12 people are believed to have been in the CTV building which collapsed in the central city following the 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February.

Judge Neil MacLean says though it is hoped everyone will be positively identified, realistically it may never happen.

The coroner told Morning Report he will talk with families concerned and also discuss whether a joint inquest similar to that held after the Pike River mine disaster may be held.

He expects an inquest will be held in early May.

Mass grave a possibility

Judge MacLean says it is possible some remains could be buried in a mass grave, as was the case in the Erebus disaster of 1979, in which 257 people died in an Air New Zealand plane crash.

He says circumstantial evidence including security camera footage or sworn evidence from bystanders that the people were in the CTV building will be used in the process as soon as possible to give the families closure.

The Disaster Victim Identification Commander, Inspector Gerard Prins, told Morning Report on Thursday that the identification process will continue for some time.

"I think probably in another two to three weeks we're hopeful to have a final conclusion in relation to the identification process. There may be some bodies, for example, that never get identified due to the state of the remains."

Mr Prins says police have a separate group liaising with the families concerned.