SURFSIDE — Last week, a citizen discovered a breast implant while walking on the beach at the far northern end of the Peninsula.
Investigators at Pacific County Sheriff’s Office don’t know yet how the implant ended up in the ocean, but they are trying to determine whether it is possible to trace it to a specific person, Lt. Jim Bergstrom said in an Oct. 4 phone interview.
According to Bergstrom, the citizen gave the implant to Long Beach Police after making the unusual discovery on Sept. 29. LBPD then turned it over to PCSO, because the sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over incidents that occur on the beach.
Asked if the implant might have belonged to a missing person or drowning victim, Bergstrom replied, “That’s probably the most logical way that it would end up there, yes.”
Medical devices like dental plates, pacemakers, and prostheses can sometimes be used to identify John or Jane Does. However, it’s usually not as easy to do in real life as it is on crime TV shows. Bergstrom said he quickly contacted the company that manufactured the implant, to ask whether it had any unique identifiers. He learned that the company prints a lot number, size and type on each implant. However, the unique serial number is only printed on the packaging, not the implant itself.
“I was hoping so. I was getting excited,” Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom also contacted the King County Medical Examiner’s Office — the authority that tries to identify many of Washington’s unidentified remains, and also provides some forensic and autopsy services to small jurisdictions that don’t have their own medical examiners. He asked the office to provide PCSO with information about missing women who were known to have implants. He also reviewed missing persons cases around the region.
Bergstrom said he believes he has probably already done everything he can to learn more about the origins of the implant, until another agency or party is able to provide some new information. “I think we have come to an end, as far as trying to identify it,” Bergstrom said. “I am going to continue my investigation into any recent missing persons cases we have and see if we can match it to them.”
Currently, there is only one active missing persons case in Pacific County — that of 25-year-old Sarah Han, who disappeared while swimming in Long Beach on Sept. 7. However, there are other possible explanations for how the implant ended up in the water, and ocean and river currents can carry small objects great distances.
So, even if the implant did belong to a drowning victim or missing person, there are plenty of possible owners. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database, there are 131 recorded cases of women missing in Oregon, and 237 in Washington. The amount and type of information provided about these women’s physical characteristics varies widely, and isn’t always complete. However, a basic keyword search quickly revealed that at least a few of these missing women had implants.