Containment you can trust. Protection you deserve.™
- Trinity County Sheriff's Department
- Bryan Ward
- Corporal (Investigations)
Located in northwestern California and about the size of Vermont, Trinity County is distinguished by exceptionally rugged, mountainous terrain. If the surface area of its topography was flattened out, the county would be closer to the size of Texas. The Trinity County Sheriff's department, comprised of sixteen sheriffs, deputies and investigators, services, relies on the BioSeal Portable System to service its population of about 14,000.
As a small department responsible for a widely-dispersed community in a treacherous environment, efficiency is key to meeting the needs of the population. Another challenge is the multi-tasking nature of the department, where responsibilities that would be divided into separate jobs in larger organizations are shared among a few people. For example, all the deputies function as deputy/coroners and all detectives are often first responders to crime scenes as well as responsible for all follow-up investigations. And, in fact, the county does not have a stand-alone morgue, but contracts with a funeral home to act as a morgue when they need to store or process human remains.
To meet the need for a safe, simple, versatile solution to infrequent human remains containment, the Trinity County Sheriff's Department has come to depend on the BioSeal Portable System. "The feedback from everyone who has used the BioSeal System is that it's easy-to-use, efficient and dependable," says Bryan Ward, corporal.
Mr. Ward had his first hands-on experience with the BioSeal System in August 2008, when a firefighting helicopter crashed in Trinity County, killing nine people on board. At that point, Trinity County did not have their own BioSeal System, but they were able to obtain two BioSeal Portable Systems from Shasta County through the Cal EMA Coroner's Mutual Aid Plan.
The BioSeal Portable System includes everything required for absolute containment of remains-including the technologically-advanced BioSeal System material and a handheld heatsealer-stored in a lightweight, durable carrying Pelican case that is equipped with versatile power sources.
Due to the terrain and local forest fires, it was very difficult to reach the site of the helicopter crash, but the compact, self-contained BioSeal Portable System was easily transported to the scene. "Obviously the portability of the system was very important. All the tools were contained in the case. It was easy to transport and once it was there it was easy to use. It made our job easier," says Ward.
Once the recovery process began, the BioSeal System proved to be not only easy to use, but a vast improvement over traditional body bags. "We were dealing with dispersed, fragmented, charred remains," explains Ward. "It was very easy for us to move the material from spot to spot and the ability to quickly and easily customize each BioSeal Systems pouch to accommodate the size of each remain fragment was very important. We needed to preserve the integrity of the very fragile remains during transport so that the pathologist would have good specimens during the identification and investigation process.
"Without the BioSeal System, we would have had to rely on traditional body bags and sheets, which would have been very inefficient. The BioSeal System was the perfect solution for the task at hand. The size-specific pouches helped restrict movement of the remains within the container, which meant that we could easily handle the remains without worrying about them disintegrating."
The BioSeal System has also improved the department's homicide investigations. "The absolute containment of the body with the tamper-proof seal is critical to evidence protection. In homicide cases, the body is a key piece of evidence and the BioSeal Systems materials provides a much more substantial container than a simple body bag. It's very easy to confirm that the seal has been achieved with the visible heat-seal strip on the material. We sign it and date it at scene and then it's just like a large evidence bag. We know that from the time the body leaves the scene of the crime to the time of autopsy that the body, the evidence, has not been tampered with."
The Trinity Country Sheriff's department has also used the BioSeal System in cases of advanced decomposition and burn victims because the odor and fluid containment is absolute, making the handling of the remains safe and manageable.
For Trinity County, the BioSeal Portable System is the best option. They do not have the numbers, both in terms of staff as well as service population, nor the frequency to warrant a larger system for their general operations. In the event of a large-scale mass fatality beyond the scope of the portable system, they have access to the BioSeal Mass Fatality System as part of Cal EMA's state-wide disaster preparedness initiatives.
But, as Ward reiterates, in Trinity County, portability is critical. "We can put the BioSeal System in the trunk of a vehicle or hand-carry it onto a helicopter. It's really nice to be able to have the capability to take this high-tech system wherever we need to go. It has the flexibility to perform anywhere, from difficult, wilderness terrain to easier, 'sterile' environments like a mortuary."