Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Severed Arm and Hand Mystery

After the press release from Colleen Fitzpatrick that I posted yesterday, I went looking for news articles about the Severed Hand mystery. I found these:

The Anchorage Daily News - The mystery of flight 4422 by George Bryson

The Washington Post - 9 Years later, a fatal mystery solved by Frank Ruane

The Fort Mill (SC) Times - Forensic experts identify mummified remains

The Fairbanks (AK) Daily News-Miner - Mummified remains found in wreckage of 1948 plane crash identified

WDBJ7 (Roanoke VA) - Local investigators link remains found in Alaska crash to roanoke man

That's all that Google News found. There are probably others. The Anchorage Daily News story leads:

"It's said that dead men tell no tales. But a severed arm and hand that emerged from a Wrangell Mountain glacier nine years ago just might -- with the help of two pilots, several forensic and genetic scientists and a raft of state and federal officials.

"Their combined efforts, detailed at an Anchorage press conference Friday, have determined that the human remains belong to one of the passengers on board a DC-4 airliner that slammed into the side of Mount Sanford 60 years ago last spring.

"More specifically, they belong to Francis Joseph Van Zandt, a 36-year-old merchant marine from Roanoke, Va., who perished in the crash with 23 other sailors and all six crew members on a flight from China to New York via Anchorage on March 12, 1948."

There is not much mention of the genealogists who worked on the project to find living relatives for DNA matches. The last two pages of the Anchorage Daily News article say:

"That allowed the geneticists to confirm the conclusion by comparing their DNA samples with DNA from relatives of Van Zandt. The genealogists found two potential male relatives -- one living in New York, the other in Limerick, Ireland. Both DNA comparisons matched.

"Joining the teleconference from afar, Maurice Conway, the Irish relative -- having been granted legal custody of the hand and arm of his "second cousin twice removed" -- said he was passing those rights on to the U.S. to advance scientific research."

I hope that Colleen will provide more information as time goes on detailing the search process details.

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