Forensic answers to the 14th of July 2016 terrorist attack in Nice

  • Gérald Quatrehomme
  • Unité Police d’Identification de Victimes de Catastrophes
  • Steve Toupenay
  • Tania Delabarde
  • Bernard Padovani
  • Véronique Alunni
Original Article


The terrorist attack of July 14, 2016 in Nice (France) was a devastating event. A man voluntarily drove a truck into a crowd gathered for the fireworks display on the seaside “Promenade des Anglais,” plowing pedestrians down over more than 2 km before being shot dead. At the time of this report, a total of 86 casualties and more than 1200 formal complaints for physical and psychological injuries have been recorded. The aim of this work is to describe the forensic management of this event and its immediate aftermath. This paper reaffirms the basic tenets of disaster management: a single place of work, teamwork in times of crisis, a single communication channel with families and the media, and the validation of the identifications by a multidisciplinary commission. This paper highlights other essential aspects of the organization of the forensic effort put in place after the Nice attack: the contribution of the police at the crime scene, the cooperation between the disaster victim identification (DVI) team, and the forensic pathologists at the morgue, applying the identification (ID) process to unconscious victims in the intensive care unit, the input of volunteers, and the logistics associated with the management of the aftermath of the event. All of the victims were positively identified within 4 and a half days. For the first time in such a paper, the central role of medical students in the immediate aftermath of the disaster is outlined. The need to address the possible psychological trauma of the non-medical and even the medical staff taking part in the forensic effort is also reaffirmed.


Mass murder mass disaster Nice terrorist attack forensic identification 



We very much wish to thank all of the professionals and all of the volunteers that worked together during this terrible event: members of the police and gendarmerie, forensic pathologists, forensic anthropologists, forensic odontologists, radiologists, radiology technicians, medical students, secretaries, and morgue technicians. A special thanks to Professor Patrick Baqué (Dean of the medical school of Nice), Mrs. Isabelle Callea (head of the administration of the medical school), Mrs. Florence Roy (head of the secretaries of the Forensic Department), Mrs. Sandrine Salvi (head of the morgue technicians), and Mr. Fabrice Hucherot (restoration of the bodies). Many thanks to Dr. Marie-Catherine Francino for her advice regarding the translation and editing of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gérald Quatrehomme
    • 1
  • Unité Police d’Identification de Victimes de Catastrophes
    • 2
  • Steve Toupenay
    • 3
  • Tania Delabarde
    • 4
  • Bernard Padovani
    • 5
  • Véronique Alunni
    • 1
  1. 1.Université Côte d’Azur, Faculté de Médecine, Institut Universitaire d’Anthropologie Médico-légale, and CEPAM (CNRS 7264)Nice Cedex 2France
  2. 2.Service Central de la Police Technique et ScientifiqueEcully CedexFrance
  3. 3.Department of Forensic OdontologyParis Diderot University HospitalParisFrance
  4. 4.Institut Médico-légalParisFrance
  5. 5.Service de Radiologie, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de NiceNice Cedex 1France

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