Monday, April 4th, turned out to be very eventful, which is a little unusual for a Monday. When I first got there, Teri and I took the family of a woman who died on Saturday into the conference room to go over their options as far as funeral homes and the responsibilities of the next of kin go. After that, Gary and I went to the morgue to fingerprint one of his bodies and scan that body and one of Teri’s. His SLED password for the fingerprint scanner wasn’t working, so we were waiting for Teri to bring her scanner when he got a call for a traffic fatality. So we threw the body back into the bag (not literally, don’t freak out) and shoved it in the freezer room, then took off for Geer Highway after making a quick stop at the office and then picking up Michael on the way there. State troopers had already done their processing of the scene and Mike Ellis, the chief deputy coroner, had begun taking pictures so we did not have to at this scene. The accident was a single vehicle, with only one passenger who was the driver. He died at the scene after he drove his car off the road, attempted to correct, then hit a tree and flipped his car completely around. He had some pretty serious injuries to his body and most likely died instantly from blunt force trauma to the head. His left arm was almost completely amputated at the elbow, and the bone was hanging out with the bottom half of his arm hanging on by a flap of skin. He also had a large laceration to his torso and some other trauma to his face. We made facial ID through his drivers’ license and a hospital band on his wrist. We went through the items in his car and what had been ejected from it, and found various prescriptions, a bottle of whiskey, and a narcotics anonymous booklet, and took those in as evidence. After the scene was processed, we took the body out of the vehicle and put it in a body bag. Bio-care was on its way, so we just put the bag behind Gary’s vehicle so anyone driving by could not see it. The driver of the bio-care van got lost and somehow ended up on top of the mountain, so we were waiting on the side of the road for what seemed like forever, feeling awful because we were holding up traffic but unable to do anything about it because we still had a body to take care of. While we were waiting, a tow truck came and got the car and all the parts that were laying in the road. Finally Wes got there and we loaded the body into the van and were finally able to leave. Gary and I dropped Michael off at his truck and went back to the office to meet Chief.
The first picture below is one I was able to take of the wreck. The second is one off Chief’s camera. Gary is on the far left and I am on the far right. (News story here: http://www.wyff4.com/news/coroner-responds-to-deadly-wreck-in-greenville-county/38860198)
Chief left the scene before the rest of us to go to the address on the decedent’s license and make the notification. No one lived there anymore, so Gary had to track down the decedent’s mother, call her, and get the number of the son. The decedent’s family lives in Black Mountain in North Carolina, so Gary asked the son if he wanted to come to Greenville so Gary could tell him what happened, or just tell him over the phone. The son said over the phone, so Chief actually made the notification and told the man that his brother had died in an accident. The family told us that the man had a husband, so Gary has to track him down too and notify him about the accident. An external examination was scheduled for the next morning, and if that was not enough to determine cause of death, and autopsy would be performed. Speaking of autopsies, I was finally able to take some pictures in the morgue of what the room where the autopsies are done looks like.
The long table is where the body is actually laid. After it is cut open, the organs are taken to the smaller table to be weighed and examined by the medical examiner. During the autopsy, there is a saw laying under the table that is used to cut the rib cage and skull open, and various other tools that are used to take samples and cut the organs up so they can be examined on the smaller table in the back.
On Tuesday, Gary and I went to the hospital to talk to the brother of the man that died in the traffic accident the day before. We were over there for over an hour answering all his questions and explaining the legal process and responsibilities involved in being the next of kin. After that, we went back to the office. Around 6:30, we got a pre-alert for a vehicle vs. motorcycle accident. We headed that way and by the time we got there, the man had been pronounced and the passenger was taken to the hospital with a trauma score of 6, but she died three days later. The operator was wearing a helmet but the passenger was not, and the driver and passenger of the van were not injured. Michael met us there and took pictures of the scene. He started farther out and gradually got closer to where the motorcycle was laying. Highway patrol had already been there and marked the location of the bike and van. The body was a little ways away from the bike where the medics had moved him to work on him and get him out of the gasoline leaking from his bike.
We held up sheets so the bystanders could not see the body and got the decedent’s wallet out to make an identification. He was facially recognizable so that is how we confirmed his identity on scene and learned his name. After that, we just had to wait until bio-care got there to load the body up. Before they got there, we took pictures of the actual body. Gary had me move the decedent’s head for the pictures and go through his pockets for his belongings. I found a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, cell phone, and key ring and put those all in a bag for the family to come by and claim later. After that, I helped hold sheets up again so the bystanders could not see the body and Gary and a fireman got the body in the bag and put it on a stretcher, then loaded it into the back of the bio-care van to be taken to the morgue.
The pictures below are of the condition the bike was in after the accident and the cross Chief painted on the road before we cleared the scene. The orange marks in the first picture were made by highway patrol and you can see the bumper of the van that the motorcycle hit. The link to the news story is here: http://wspa.com/2016/04/05/1-dead-1-in-critical-condition-after-greenville-co-motorcycle-wreck/ and if you look closely in the first picture you can see me in the middle. I am very proud of that picture and I have it saved everywhere, and also included it below. The final picture is of me going through the decedent’s pockets and getting his belongings for property and evidence.
The next day, I had a prearranged absence day. I went to the morning meeting after absconding some coffee from the kitchen. They just went over the traffic fatality from the previous day and the passenger who was still in the hospital. Gary and I went to the morgue around 10 for the external review of the decedent from the motorcycle fatality. His cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma to the head (he had a cranial fracture) and the manner of death is accidental. Blood and vitreous humor were taken, and those will be sent off to the lab to be tested. He did have a broken leg, but that did not contribute to the cause of death. There was only one other death that day, and it was a natural, so Gary was able to take it over the phone. Other than that, Gary boxed up some blood to be sent to SLED for toxicology and we put together fingerprint sheets from the two traffic fatalities. I also did a P&E sheet for the belongings I got off the decedent in the motorcycle accident and his son came to pick those up. We went home a little early because everyone else had already left and all his reports were caught up, so we really had nothing to dowas (sadly) not able to go to the office on Thursday because of a concert or on Friday because of my senior prom. Not much happened while I was gone, so that was fine with me. The following Monday, Gary took me to the morgue to fingerprint a homicide victim (news story: http://wspa.com/2016/04/11/greenville-man-shot-dies-on-old-buncombe-road/) and the passenger from the motorcycle accident that died 3 days later (news story: http://wspa.com/2016/04/10/coroner-identifies-woman-killed-in-motorcycle-crash-in-greenville/). We also had an interesting experience when we went into the refrigerator room to get the bodies and someone in the far corner stood up. In a room where everyone is supposed to be dead, people aren’t supposed to just be standing up and moving around, so Gary grabbed his gun, I let out a few choice words, and both of us tried to get out the door at the same time which resulted in me tripping and the lab assistant in the corner having a good laugh at how scared we got. Gary showed me the “basement” where bodies are put when the room in the morgue gets a little too full. That room was pretty rank because some of those bodies have been in there for months. While I was printing the decedent from the homicide, Gary told me I would do well as a deputy coroner, so of course that made me extremely happy.
This is my last internship post on this site. Senior year is coming to a close, and so are senior projects. I will continue to go back to the office sometimes, I just won’t be posting about my adventures on here anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read about and share in my experiences. This project has changed and influenced my life more than anyone will ever know and everyone’s support of me has been invaluable.