F.I.R.S.T. (Forensic. Investigation. Research. Services. Training.)

Tripwire’s F.I.R.S.T. (Forensic. Investigation. Research. Services. Training.)Division, which is co-directed by internationally recognized experts in the field forensic archaeology consultants Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., D-ABFA and Special Agent Michael Hochrein (ret), provides a wide variety of services to the law enforcement, medicolegal, and jurisprudence communities, focused on forensic scene recoveries (outdoor and indoor), mass disaster incidents, forensic DNA interpretation, forensic anthropology cases, and general criminalistics. Real-time forensic scene recoveries and investigations can be completed upon request. Training courses are available both at the Tripwire Facility in Gettysburg, and at institutions across the country. Consultations and reviews by cold cases, current cases, and future cases are available.

F.I.R.S.T. offers a variety of short-courses in the areas of Forensic Anthropology, Outdoor Crime Scene Reconstruction, Forensic Scene Mapping, Mass Disaster Scene Processing, Disaster Morgue Protocols, Cold Case Reviews, and Scene mapping of Actual Forensic Scenes. Dr. Dirkmatt is a board-certified forensic anthropologist who has conducted over 700 hundred outdoor forensic scene recoveries and analyses, throughout Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, and has served as Chair of the Disaster Scene Recovery Committee within SWG-DVI Committee, now OSAC. He served as First Scientific Advisor to the Somerset County PA Coroner during the identification of victims of United Flight 93 and was in charge of the scene processing of the ColganAir Flight in Buffalo, NY in February of 2009. Dr. Dirkmatt is the Chair of both the undergraduate program in Applied Forensic Sciences and the Masters of Science in Anthropology (Forensic and Biological Anthropology) graduate program at Mercyhurst University, in Erie, PA. The master’s program is widely recognized as one of the top forensic anthropology graduate programs in North America. Since 1986, Dr. Dirkmaat has conducted over 600 forensic anthropology cases for over 70 coroners, medical examiners and state and local police in the US states of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. The cases have included recoveries of surface-scattered human remains, buried body features, fatal fire scenes, and mass disaster recoveries, as well as victim identification and skeletal trauma analyses. He has testified in court over 20 times as an expert witness.

Dr. Dirkmaat has published articles on the role of archaeology and forensic taphonomy in the field of forensic anthropology and was instrumental in convincing the Physical Anthropology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to change the name to the Anthropology Section. In 2008, he was the primary author of an influential state-of-the-field article on forensic anthropology for the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. He is the editor of A Companion to Forensic Anthropology published in 2012 and contributed to six chapters in the book. He co-wrote the chapter detailing forensic archaeological practices in the United States for the book Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective, published in 2015.

Dr. Dirkmaat’s research interests include the role of forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy in the field of forensic anthropology, and in particular, postmortem interval estimation, as well as issues related to mass disaster/mass fatality recovery and victim identification. Dirkmaat served as the chair of the Search and Recovery Committee of the Scientific Working Group- Disaster Victim Identification (SWG-DVI) group and co-chair of the Anthropology Committee of SWG-DVI (FBI, NIJ). He is currently a committee member of the Disaster Victim Identification Subcommittee, within the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), administered through the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Dr. Dirkmaat has participated as a primary forensic anthropologist with the US Federal Government’s Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), in commercial plane crash incidents in Pittsburgh (USAir Flight 427, 1994), Guam (KoreanAir Flight 801, 1997), and Rhode Island (EgyptAir Flight 990, 1999), train accidents in Reno, Nevada (2011), as well as natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina (2005). In 2001, he served as the primary scientific advisor to Somerset County (Pennsylvania) Coroner Wallace Miller during the recovery and identification of victims of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. In February 2009, Dr. Dirkmaat, consulting for the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office (Buffalo, NY), directed the recovery of victims of Colgan Air Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo (50 victims). In November of 2015 he led the recovery efforts of eight victims of a commuter plane crash in Akron, Ohio. He serves as a consultant for international companies involved in the recovery and identification of victims of plane crashes from around the world (including Kenya, Angola, and Peru) and other mass disaster events (Haiti earthquake in 2010).

Dr. Dirkmaat has completed two major grant projects for the design of national scene processing protocols for mass disasters and fatal fire scenes for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), US Department of Justice.

Dr. Dirkmaat has spent the last 26 years at Mercyhurst University and is a Full Professor of Anthropology. As an instructor, outside of Mercyhurst, Dirkmaat has close to three decades of experience organizing training courses and lecturing for local, state and federal agencies throughout the US (26 states), as well as Mexico, Chile, Cyprus, Canada, and Spain. He has also presented over 300 lectures and 80 professional papers discussing forensic anthropology investigation at numerous regional, national and international meetings.

Mr. Hochrein is a retired FBI Special Agent who has over 29 years of experience in criminal investigations including crime scene management and processing. Certified as a police instructor in various topics related to the collection of evidence and management of complex crime scenes. Conducted training for local, state, and federal law enforcement as well as medico-legal practitioners and academic audiences ranging from high school to graduate school. As adjunct FBI faculty under the United States Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, provided training for international police agencies in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. Deployed to sites of judicial interest in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in order to forensically document facilities. Within the United States, deployed to assist in the collection of evidence from major scenes to include the shooting and arrest scene for Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 2013, the 2007 collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis Minnesota, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the 2000 aircraft crash resulting in the deaths of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, his brother, and an aide, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Certified in Federal and State courts as an expert in forensic archaeology and crime scene mapping.