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Investigators last fall at the Cocula garbage dump. Investigators last fall at the Cocula garbage dump.

Fire experts confirm Ayotzinapa findings

They dispute UNAM physicist's claims regarding the fuel required

How much fuel — such as wood and tires — does it take to turn 43 bodies to ash?

Of the doubts that have been sown over the official version of what took place on the night of September 26 in Iguala and Cocula, Guerrero, the most credible is that concerning the incineration of the 43 bodies of the missing students of Ayotzinapa.

A physicist at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has disputed the official findings, claiming that the fire would have required 33 tonnes of four-inch-diameter tree trunks — or 995 tires — to achieve the required temperature of 900 degrees C for a sufficient length of time to completely burn the bodies.

But the newspaper Milenio reports today it has consulted two international experts in the behavior of fire and its effects on the human body. One of the them, American forensic anthropologist Elayne Juniper Pope, has actually conducted experiments on bodies, burning them on the surface of the ground and inside excavated pits.

The verdict: yes, it would be possible to incinerate that number of bodies within 24 hours and without the volume of fuel suggested by researcher Jorge Antonio Montemayor of UNAM.

Pope said subcutaneous body fat alone is a fuel source that can feed a fire for hours.

And Spanish mechanical engineer Guillermo Rein, formerly a professor at the University of Edinburgh where he was part of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, offered the opinion that it would be possible to build a fire with temperatures of 800 degrees or more with far less fuel.

He said a fire with a base measuring several meters on each side, well fed with solid and liquid fuel (such as gasoline or diesel), would generate temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees for several hours. Placing the bodies on a raised pyre would put them where the highest temperature would be found, ensuring their cremation.

Pope, who has worked on many criminal cases in the United States because of her expertise in incinerated bones, also said it is possible to burn a human body in one or two hours with very little wood or just a single tire and a bit of diesel.

The federal investigation into the deaths of the Ayotzinapa students concluded that a fire was built with dozens of tires, dry wooden branches and inflammable garbage within a large crater.

It was a grisly business: members of the crime gang Guerreros Unidos, presumed responsible for the murder and the incineration, laid down eight bodies on top of the fuel, and then five more crosswise on top of those. They continued layering the bodies until the pyre was seven layers deep.

Gasoline and diesel were applied and the fire was lit; it burned for the next 15 hours.

Forensic scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria have been able to identify only one of the students from the ashes that were recovered from the fire.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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