Message from the Chief Commissioner

Press conference: Bushfires death toll revised to 173

Release date: Mon 30 March 2009

Last updated: Mon 30 March 2009

Press conference > Watch video†> Listen audio†> Read transcript


Following extensive examinations Victoria Police now believes the death toll from the bushfires on Black Saturday has reduced from 210 to 173.

The figure given out by Victoria Police has always been a provisional number due to the complicated nature of the post-mortem examinations.

Following detailed enquiries into missing personís data in conjunction with the examination of bushfire victims we are more confident that 173 is closer to the final number of people who perished during the fires.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said countless hours had been spent working on the identification process.

"We continuously stated that this would be a complicated and lengthy matter and it would take considerable time before we were in a position to accurately determine the number of people who lost their lives as a result of this tragic event."

"Over the past six weeks we have gone through tens of thousands of records and documentation, working closely with the Red Cross and the Coronerís Office to ensure that the figure we have is as accurate as it possibly can be at this time.

"We have been able to account for a number of people who were initially presumed missing as a result of the fires and this has impacted on the final figure.

"When the searches were conducted in the field our DVI teams recovered what they believed to be around 210 sets of remains.

"These remains have since been scientifically examined at the Coronerís office. In some instances some remains have been examined and found to belong to one person, when originally suspected to be two or more.

"We have also had to eliminate animal remains as part of the identification process and this too has impacted on the figure."

Mr Walshe said the nature of the work that our DVI teams have had to deal with over past six weeks both in the field and at the Coroners has been distressing and difficult and has required the upmost professionalism from our officers.

"I would like to thank them for their diligence and commitment to ensuring that every individual who died during the fires was treated with respect and dignity. They are also ensuring that all legal requirements are met when it comes to being able to formally identify the deceased."

Despite the Coroner formally identify 87 people so far, Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe again reiterated that this continues to be a painstaking process and in some circumstances identification may not be possible.

"As we have said many times before, the unfortunate reality is that due to the ferocity of the fires despite the best efforts of police and the Coroner we may not be able to formally identify everyone.

"This is still not the final figure and until the coronial process is completed on each individual than we will not be able to definitively say how many people died as a result of the fires.

"We will continue to keep the community informed as more information comes to light."

Location where deceased found by suburb:

Fire Region / Municipality

Deaths

Kinglake / Whittlsea Fires

159

Kinglake

38

Kinglake West

4

St Andrews

12

Canberville

1

Humevale

6

Strathewen

27

Flowerdale

2

Hazeldene

10

Steeles Creek

10

Arthurs Creek

2

Strath Creek

1

Toolangi

2

Marysville

34

Clonbinane

1

Heathcote Junction

1

Upper Plenty

1

Whittlesea

2

Narbethong

4

Yarra Glen

1

Gippsland Fires

11

Callignee

3

Callignee Upper

1

Churchill

2

Koornalla

4

Jeeralang Junction

1

Beechworth Fires

2

Mudgegonga

2

Bendigo Fires

1

Long Gully

1

TOTAL

173


Press conference > Watch video†> Listen audio†> Read transcript

 
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