by KORIE MARSHALL
The BC Coroners Service has confirmed the identity of an individual whose remains were found near Valemount in 2014.
He is Richard Olson, age 47, of Valemount.
According to a news release from the BC Coroners Service last week, Mr. Olson went missing in 2007, and despite extensive searches could not be located. In 2014, human remains were located near Valemount; but advanced DNA analysis was required before they could be identified.
Laurel Clegg, Manager of the Identification and Disaster Response unit of the Coroner Service, says it was difficult to get DNA from the remains that were found. Two labs in Canada were unsuccessful, but there is a specialized lab that is better at getting DNA profiles from skeletal remains. She says 24 cases, some from as far back as the 1980s, have been sent to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) lab in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, over the last year.
“DNA is typically present in tiny quantities in skeletal remains, and in some cases may have been entirely destroyed by microbes or the elements,” René Huel, head of the DNA Laboratories for the Commission, told the Goat via email. Huel says extremely efficient methods for DNA extraction are required, and International Commission on Missing Persons has been a world leader in the development of methods to extract DNA from aged bones.
With a good DNA profile from the Commission’s lab, Clegg says her unit was able to match the remains with DNA found on Mr. Olson’s belongings. She says comparisons with family members are also sometimes used. Because of the work with Commission, a number of the other cases have been identified, says Clegg, and she expects to make more announcements this week, once families are notified.
The BC Coroners Service continues to investigate Mr. Olson’s death.