Lieutenant Jarrett Morris with the ANDE Rapid DNA identification system. | Credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

The Santa Barbara Sheriff-Coroner’s Office got more experience than anyone would want identifying cadavers after the Conception dive boat fire killed 23 people in 2019. They became expert in using the ANDE Rapid DNA identification system as they investigated the tragedy. Given that experience, Governor Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services requested the services of Lieutenant Jarrett Morris last week to help the Maui Police Department identify victims in Lahaina.

As of August 23, 115 individuals are known to have died when a wildfire swept through the coastal city. Another 1,000 people are thought to be missing.

Lt. Morris had been in communication with the Independent on a serious case when he was deployed to Maui on August 18, but he followed up nonetheless after arriving at the 50th state. There, Morris is working at the DNA laboratory of a temporary mortuary set up in Kahului on the north side of Maui, about 40 miles from Lahaina by road. He’s already helped to identify more than a dozen remains recovered from the burned area and is assisting in teaching about rapid DNA technology.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said his office was proud to be able to assist the people of Maui, recognizing the effects of disasters from Santa Barbara’s experiences. “We stand with our brothers and sisters in the Maui Police Department and with all other first responders engaged in managing this terrible tragedy,” Brown said, “as they mourn their great losses and grapple with the recovery process.”


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