Former top doc returns for Swissair memorial
ROBYN YOUNG, METRO HALIFAX
August 29, 2008 05:00
Two nights after the crash, the doctor was standing at the podium in one of the tents, the last to speak to family members and media after a line of officials.
He knew he had to say something about the condition of the bodies.
"I said that I was sorry to tell them that they would never see their loved one again "” which had not been said," said Dr. John C. Butt, Nova Scotia's former chief medical examiner.
Family members knew no one had survived the crash, but they were not aware of the condition of the bodies.
The families appreciated finally hearing the truth, he said from his office in Vancouver, where he works in forensic medicine and pathology.
On the night of Sept. 2, 1998, after the MD-11 aircraft plunged into the Atlantic, killing on impact all 229 people on board, Butt was charged with leading a team of pathologists to sort and identify the millions of pieces of human remains recovered.
The adrenaline-filled nights and days that followed linger vividly in his mind.
"When one has been involved in an incident like Swissair, I think that it doesn't leave your mind; but that isn't to say that it has done me any harm," he said.
He doesn't dwell on the tragedy in a morbid way, he said.
"There was a palpable demonstration of kindness and humanity and I was privileged to be there and participate in that," he said.
And his demonstration of compassion during those first days has stayed with others.
"We always liked Dr. Butt," said Miles Gerety, the brother of Pierce Gerety who was killed in the crash. "Because he cried when he spoke to us."
Today, Dr. Butt is on his way back to Nova Scotia and will reconnect with families of the victims of Swissair Flight 111 on the tenth anniversary next Tuesday.
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