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Report: Search for human remains at WTC skyscraper is thorough

AMY WESTFELDT / AP | August 25 2006

NEW YORK -- Workers searching for human remains on the roof of a damaged skyscraper near the World Trade Center site likely are recovering 95 percent of the remains and are doing as thorough a job as possible, according to a report by an independent adviser to Sept. 11 families.

"I think the work being performed here is the best possible under the circumstances," anthropology professor Richard Gould wrote in the report. "Realistically, it may be less than 100 percent, but I do not see much, if any, room for improvement."

Family members concerned that the search for tiny bone fragments on the roof of the former Deutsche Bank building wasn't being handled properly asked Gould, a Brown University professor who also heads a forensic archaeology firm that assists in disaster recovery, to inspect the work on top of the skyscraper, which is vacant.

More than 700 remains, just fractions of an inch long, have been found since last fall, when workers began preparing to dismantle the contaminated 41-story building. The World Trade Center's south tower tore into 15 stories of the building when it collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, filling it with dust.

Gould, who visited the skyscraper on Aug. 8, also described seeing "numerous pieces of aluminum aircraft skin, recognizable from the paint and zinc chromate coating still adhering to many of them" as well as three possible bone fragments and a small piece of a CD on an upper floor of the building.

He said in his Aug. 10 report that hot weather and the environmental protective clothing that workers wear make it difficult to recover all the remains in the building. But he estimated that 95 percent were being recovered, which "would be considered excellent results for this kind of archaeological recovery at any disaster scene."

Sally Regenhard, the mother of a slain firefighter who has complained that work is not being done properly at the building, said Thursday that the families question the procedures for remains removal earlier in the year.

"Unfortunately, the report does not reflect what was done with rakes and shovels before Dr. Gould was allowed" to inspect the removal, said Regenhard, who has never recovered the remains of her son.

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