TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass confirmed that the state’s emergency mortuary response team was activated to help with body recovery after Hurricane Ian. The last time the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System was used was in July 2021, after the collapse of Champlain Tower South in Surfside.

According to Glass, FEMORS will be working with other medical examiners to assess causes of death after Hurricane Ian and helping to determine if deaths were caused directly by the storm or by natural causes.

“They have some FEMORS out, working with the medical examiners now, to help with analysis and identifying [remains],” Glass said.

FEMORS is a special forensic unit for the state, based out of the University of Florida’s William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, to assist with body recovery and examination following mass fatality incidents.

“The rapid and accurate identification of mass fatality victims is of critical importance to any disaster mitigation operation. Issues of probate cannot be resolved until a death certificate has been issued by the Medical Examiner,” according to the FEMORS site. “FEMORS was created to serve the needs of Medical Examiners in their mission to bring dignity and professionalism to caring for the deceased.”

Duties of the FEMORS unit include:

  • Initial Scene Response and Evaluation
  • Processing the Scene
  • Temporary Morgue Operations and Administration
  • Various forensic units within the morgue
  • Victim Identification
  • Disposition of Human Remains
  • Personal Effects
  • Evidence Collection

Discussing the types of deaths, Glass responded to some questions from reporters.

“You have drowning, you have some that weren’t able to get medical services from a heart attack,” Glass said. “It’s going to be a myriad of different things. There’s going to be a lot of drowning of course, but there’s other avenues.”

FDLE has so far attributed 58 deaths to Hurricane Ian, said to be direct results of the storm’s impacts. The numbers confirmed so far have been split by county:

  • Collier – 3
  • Hendry – 1
  • Hillsborough – 1
  • Lake – 1
  • Lee – 42
  • Manatee – 2
  • Sarasota – 3
  • Volusia – 5

An FDLE spokesperson said the hurricane deaths were confirmed as “storm-related” following autopsy by the Medical Examiners Commission. WFLA.com has reached out to personnel with FEMORS for more information on the recovery and identification process.