Workshop designed to help volunteers spot bones in search areas along Red River
A group of Drag the Red volunteers is receiving a crash course in forensics by anthropologists at the University of Winnipeg.
Drag the Red searchers started their second year of combing the Red River in May. The group has been dragging hooks from boats across the river bottom since last fall, driven to action after the death of Tina Fontaine.
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Researchers and volunteers with Drag the Red came together at the U of W Saturday to go over how to sharpen their efforts and search more safely.
Emily Holland, an anthropology professor at Brandon University and a trained forensic specialist, said she wanted to help the group search more effectively, “so they’re looking as critically and cautiously as they can.”
Decomposed remains, biohazards
“It’s going to be very difficult. If you think about the scale of what these people are undertaking. there is a lot of land, a lot of water,” she said.
She stressed the potential for dehydration, sun stroke and being exposed to biohazards associated with decomposed human remains needs to be taken into account before venturing out onto the water.
Holland said one of the purposes of the course was to give volunteers a basic framework for how to spot bones in their search areas.
‘What bone looks like’
“Bone can look like lots of things. It has a very particular structure: hard dense outer layer, looks like a tube,” said Holland, adding once bones are recovered they need to be sent to an expert to be identified.
“It’s just about really making sure they know what bone looks like.”
She added that searchers could come across partial remains on shorelines.
“These aren’t nice things to think about but these are the kinds of things that happen,” said Holland.
“As a forensic anthropologist, I do that part of my work because people matter. I can’t do anything about what has happened to someone before, but I can try to help find them. I can help ID them and help tell their story and bring closure to families.”
Drag the Red plans to search every day until October.