AG: Coroner will expedite storm death certificates

Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday victims of Hurricane Dorian will not have to wait seven years to receive death certificates for their relatives killed, or reported to have been killed, as a result of the storm.

“The point is that in terms of seeking to bring closure to as many persons as possible where closure is an inescapable conclusion, the coroners have agreed to this course of action,” Bethel said.

“We had a long series of discussions on it. We looked at the law [and] we looked at their powers.”

He said the law makes provisions for Her Majesty’s Coroner to issue certificates in an expedited manner.

“My understanding is the coroner’s view is upon appropriate evidence, based largely and essentially upon a sworn statement before the police about what the person witnessed and the police would then investigate it,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“Once the police [have] no issue with the facts as brought through by the witness, the coroner then makes an inquest, review the statement, perhaps interview the witness and then be able, if the coroner is persuaded or her deputies respectively, to issue their certificates in a lesser period than prescribed by law.”

The attorney general said at this time the provision would apply to “only hurricane-related deaths”.

In the three weeks since Dorian, many survivors of the catastrophic storm have pleaded to the government to expedite the issuance of death certificates so that they could have closure in its aftermath.

 On Monday, Howard Armstrong, 66, a resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama, claimed he was present when his wife died during Dorian.

He told The Guardian, “We’re wanting closure on this — a death certificate… I saw a couple of MPs here and there… I went up and questioned them. It’s seven years to get a death certificate. They need to do something about that.”

Earlier this month, Dorian battered Abaco and Grand Bahama with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour and gusts of 200 miles per hour.

The death toll for the storm so far is at least 53. Officials have said more than 600 people are still missing in the aftermath of the storm.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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