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Breaking down the 2018 El Paso County Coroner’s report

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jun 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-09 19:36:36-04

EL PASO COUNTY – According to the annual report issued from the El Paso County Coroner’s Office, in 2018 there were fewer fatal drug overdoses, fewer overall accidental deaths, but major increases in fatal vehicle encounters and homicides.

Every year, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office releases a report that details its total number of death investigations as well as a breakdown of how many autopsies were performed.

According to the department, deaths are investigated if they are “sudden, unexpected, [or] non-natural.”

In 2018, the office investigated a total of 4,779 deaths, about 90% of all deaths inside the county, and performed autopsies on 844 El Paso County deaths.

“We don’t do any autopsies to help the person that has died, they are deceased and no longer with us. The whole goal of an autopsy is to learn about the death, figure out what happened and be better equipped in the future to prevent something similar deaths.”

-Dr. Leon Kelly, Coroner

Of the autopsies performed, the causes of death broke down as follows:

  • Natural: 30%
  • Accidental: 44%
  • Suicide: 18%
  • Homicide: 7%

With the remaining 1.1% falling under the classification of undetermined or unclassified.

As seen above, the largest category is the listing of accidental deaths. The main contributors in this category are:

  • Drug overdoses: 133 deaths
  • Fatal falls: 100 deaths
  • Deadly accidents involving motor vehicles: 86

The number of drug related deaths is actually a 10% decrease from the total of 147 recorded in 2017.

Of that number, 78 lost their lives in accidents involving opioids. This is a marked decrease from 2017 when 92 died from opioid usage.

In relation to the deadly motor vehicle accidents, the report indicates that 67 lost their lives, a marked increase over the 60 recorded in 2017.

The report further details that in 41 of these cases, the driver was at fault. In 31 of the “driver-at-fault” incidences, the driver was found to have drugs, alcohol, or THC in their system at the time of the autopsy.

The other 19 deaths included in the overall total were pedestrians who were struck and fatally injured.

According to the Coroner’s Office, homicides increased from 42 in 2017 to 56 throughout 2018. In 41 of these cases firearms were used.

Suicides decreased from the total of 164 in 2017 to 152 this past year. The office makes special note of the fact that suicides recorded in minors dropped by more than half:

  • 2017: 13
  • 2018: 7

According to the office, these deaths are investigated individually, “By the El Paso County Child Fatality Review Team to identify strategies to prevent these types of deaths in the future. [This] has resulted in community wide efforts to decrease teen suicide in El Paso County.”

If you or someone you know is struggling at all with depression or thoughts of self-harm, don’t be silent. There are people ready and waiting to help.