Best of help in the worst of times

SYMPATHY: Nowra funeral director Craig Murphy knows the frustration disaster response teams waiting to get onto the ground in Eastern Ukraine are going through, having worked some of the major disaster sites around the world including the Bali bombings.

SYMPATHY: Nowra funeral director Craig Murphy knows the frustration disaster response teams waiting to get onto the ground in Eastern Ukraine are going through, having worked some of the major disaster sites around the world including the Bali bombings.

A NOWRA man who has worked on some of the worst disasters around the world, including the Bali bombings, said crews attempting to recover remains from the Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash site in Eastern Ukraine would be getting frustrated by not being granted access.

Craig Murphy has been a funeral director and embalmer with Murphy Family Funerals for 22 years but also subcontracts to disaster response companies, Blakes International and Kenyon International, which respond to any international disasters with multiple deceased.

“The response teams in Europe would be all geared up ready to go and would be just waiting for approval to move,” he said.

“It would be so frustrating just sitting there. You are over there to try to recover people’s loved ones with as much dignity and respect as possible.

“Each hour of delay makes it harder for recovery and identification. The frustration and anger builds. You just want to get in there and do your job.

“The hard part about the Ukraine incident is with the plane exploding mid-air, there may be some remains that may never be recovered.

“It would be a difficult incident with the wreckage strewn over such a wide area.”

Mr Murphy responded to the Bali bombings and has worked at numerous plane crashes in Africa.

“The Bali bombings were pretty bad,” he said.

He initially spent nine-and-a-half weeks in Bali and then returned for a further three weeks when DNA test results were confirmed.

“It can be wonderful work but difficult work,” he said.

“The people on the ground become consumed about doing the best possible for the deceased person in front of them.

“You don’t know the heritage, background or country of origin – you are caring for all the victims the same way, with the upmost respect.

“You need to work as quickly as possible with the least amount of fuss possible.

“The main priority for every disaster response team is providing the best results for the families left at home.

“You have good days and you have bad days. You just try to do the best you can.”

He said one reason Australians were often called to disasters was their attitude of getting in and getting the job done. 

“We are also highly regarded and skilled in this kind of work,” he said.

“Some of the incidents are in developing countries and the conditions we work in are pretty harsh and at times dangerous. The facilities are far different from what we have in Australia so we have to adapt. You become focused on the work and not the conditions.”

He said work carried out at disaster scenes can be extremely varied.

“It can range from recovering remains from a site, to being family liaisons consulting with relatives trying to discover any distinguishing marks, piercings or tattoos the victims may have, taking DNA samples, to running the mortuary facilities,” he said.

“I’ve done scribing work for odontologists, who use dental records to identify remains, and worked with pathologists.

“At times it can be horrific, you see some terrible things, but it is like the jobs many of us do at home – it can also be extremely rewarding knowing you are returning someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, regardless of the way they died or the condition of the body. But they were going home.”

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