In this July 6, 1944 file photo, people flee a fire in the big top of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Hartford. In a ruling filed Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, a judge approved an exhumation request for the bodies of two unknown victims of the fire, in an effort to determine if one of them was Grace Fifield, of Newport, Vermont. (AP)
I was featured in the September 22nd edition of Hartford Courant in the article "The medical examiner will exhume two bodies from the Hartford Circus Fire, but finding DNA samples so they can be identified won’t be easy" The story covers my role as the state forensic anthropologist overseeing the exhumation of two unidentified bodies from the the Hartford Circus Fire that happened 75 years ago.
Here's an excerpt from the article and you can read the full article here.
Harnett-McCann said solving the mystery of the unidentified circus fire victims will be a big challenge, but for someone in her field it is a rare opportunity.
“Normally, I do modern medical legal cases, but there’s always these cases of historical importance that come up that require our modern forensic anthropology expertise,” Hartnett-McCann said. “I love doing these cases. They are the most fascinating and interesting cases.”
She said the fact the case is 75 years old makes it easier to deal with.
“Because they are slightly removed in time, it’s not as traumatic as if the circus fire happened now and we had all of these remains. It would be very upsetting and difficult to do,” she said.
“I really want to be able to help figure out the identities of these people after all of this time. It’s a really big challenge,” Hartnett-McCann said. “I love that we now have DNA technology that has improved so much that can help us, and genetic studies that can figure out who a person might be related to can help identify them.”