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9/11 victim's remains identified nearly 16 years later

Remains of 40% of the people who died in the attacks have yet to be identified.

Clouds of smoke rise from the burning upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001
Clouds of smoke rise from the burning upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001
Image: Hubert Boesl/DPA/PA Images

THE REMAINS OF a man killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 have been identified nearly 16 years after the terror attacks, medical examiners have said.

The man’s name was withheld at his family’s request, the New York City medical examiner’s office said yesterday.

The announcement marks the first new identification made since March 2015 in the painstaking, ongoing effort.

The office uses DNA testing and other means to match bone fragments to the 2,753 people killed by the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the twin towers on 11 September 2001.

Remains of 1,641 victims have been identified so far, meaning 40% of those who died have yet to have any remains identified.

Advanced DNA testing

New, more sensitive DNA technology was deployed earlier this year and helped make the latest identification after earlier testing produced no results, the medical examiner’s office said.

As DNA testing advanced, so has the multimillion-dollar effort to connect more than 21,900 bits of remains to individual victims. Few full bodies were recovered after the giant towers burned and collapsed, and the effects of heat, bacteria and chemicals such as jet fuel made it all the more difficult to analyse the remains.

Over time, the medical examiner’s office came to use a process that involves pulverising the fragments to extract DNA, then comparing it to the office’s collection of genetic material from victims or their relatives. Most of the DNA profiles generated belong to previously identified victims.

In some cases, scientists have gone back to the same bone fragment 10 or more times, hoping new technology will provide answers.

The 9/11 airliner attacks killed a total of nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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