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Oklahoma tornadoes: Most bodies of tornado victims released to families

Downed cellphone towers led to communication problems, resulting in a wrong number of dead reported after Monday's storm in Moore and south Oklahoma City.
by Juliana Keeping Published: May 22, 2013

The bodies of the majority of Monday's tornado victims have been released to their families, officials said. Twenty-four men, women and children were killed in the storm.

Communication problems following the EF5 twister that ripped through Newcastle, south Oklahoma City and Moore were to blame for the incorrect death toll released by the state medical examiner's office after the disaster. Initial reports put the number dead at 51.

“We were notified by law enforcement and the funeral homes ... that there was a count of 51 coming to our office,” spokeswoman Amy Elliott said.

Officials used Emergency Medical Services Authority ambulance radios to communicate after the tornado hit, Elliott said.

“The cellphone towers were down in Moore. We were doing communication via radio. The EMSA ambulances have radios in them. They were kind enough to let people use them.”

Elliott said there is “no indication whatsoever” that people are buried in rubble or storm shelters.

The state medical examiner's office in Oklahoma City has space for 45 bodies and is typically at full capacity. The bodies were moved to FEMA coolers to accommodate the tornado victims.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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