This week was spring break from high school and college, so I took full advantage of that and was at the office all day every day. Sonny was first out and Gary was second. On Monday, there was not much going on, and no calls came in all day except for natural deaths. The running joke of the office was about a woman who showed up to get the BRT for her brother and haul his body away in a taxi. Dee and I were laughing about that all morning. Other than that, Gary and I had to track down the next of kin for a man who was found dead in Florida. He was homeless, so they did not have many records for him and the only name they found in connection with him was for a woman in TR. We went and talked to her and found out that she was his ex-wife, and she gave us the name of their daughter so we could notify her. After that we had nothing else to do, so we went and visited Gary’s old fire department (you can follow their department cat at flamethearsoncat on Instagram). The alarm went off while we were there for a structure fire, so we jumped in Gary’s car and took off with lights and sirens to the Fleetwood apartments. It ended up being just a smoking appliance, so we cleared out of there soon after and went back to the office until the end of the day.
On Tuesday there was a lot more action. There was a call a little after 10 for a traffic fatality, so Gary and I went out to that. It was a single vehicle accident and the car went around a curve and did not straighten out, so it continued straight until it hit a concrete barrier on a side road. The driver was not ejected, but he had some pretty serious trauma to his body. Highway patrol came and reconstructed the scene, then a fire crew pulled the body out of the car. That took awhile because they literally had to cut the car up to get him out. A piece of metal in the dashboard hit his knee and split it in half, so they had to cut far enough into the dashboard to get his knee out of the metal, which does not seem difficult until you take into account that there were five firefighters trying to squeeze around a very small car on its side. After the body was extricated, it was placed in a clean white body bag and biocare took it to the morgue. Gary and I went to make the notification to the family of the decedent and stopped by the office to get Michael, another intern, and take him with us to make the notification. As we were picking him up, Jeff sped out of the office and down the road, so we went to find out what he was responding to so quickly. It ended up being a hanging about a minute away from the office in the woods across from the hospital. (News story on the hanging: http://wspa.com/2016/03/29/body-found-in-woods-near-greenville-memorial-hospital/) Michael decided to stay with Jeff at that scene, so Gary and I went out to the address on the man from the traffic fatality’s license. No one was there, so we went back to the office to research the decedent more and find the next of kin. His brother actually called the office and told Gary his dad lived in Piedmont, and the father was technically the next of kin. The father was a little older so Gary wanted the brother to come with us to make the notification just to be there for his father. While we waited for the brother, I filled out the property and evidence sheet for the decedent’s belongings. The decedent’s brother drove out to the office and Gary and I followed him out to the father’s house. We made the notification, which was not fun at all – notifications are the only aspect of being an intern that I do not like. I have only been with the deputy coroners to two of the notifications, but both of them were really rough. From all the information we gathered about the decedent from witnesses, family, and his doctors, we concluded the decedent had a seizure when he went around the curve and continued straight until he hit the barrier. The manner of death was ruled accidental and the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. News story: http://wspa.com/2016/03/29/fatal-crash-on-hwy-20-in-greenville-co-vehicle-overturned/
On Wednesday, I got to go with Sonny and Jamie, a part time deputy coroner, to see the autopsy from the man who hung himself the day before. An autopsy was going on right before for the victim of an officer-involved shooting, which I did not go to because a bunch of SLED investigators and other officers were there. It was not an officer that died, but officers shot the decedent, so of course the investigation will be very involved and lengthy. (News story: http://wspa.com/2016/03/29/one-killed-in-greenville-co-officer-involved-shooting/) Anyway, the autopsy for the hanging was basically to make sure that the findings in the autopsy were consistent with a ligature hanging and there was no foul play involved. Before the autopsy, Sonny let me fingerprint the body from the hanging and another body from a death that happened during the previous night. Both of them were still in rigor, so I had to break that and uncurl their fingers. Jamie held the fingers uncurled for me and I rolled the ink on and took the prints. They turned out so well that even Sonny was impressed by how good they were, so I was extremely proud of my fingerprinting abilities. After that, we went and put on all the garb for the autopsy and that was over fairly quickly. The marks and condition of the body were consistent with a ligature hanging, so the manner of death will be ruled suicide. The whole office thinks I am twisted now, because during the autopsy I was really hungry and my stomach was growling, but when we got back to the office I was not hungry anymore, so Sonny went and told everyone that dead bodies make me hungry. Sonny let me read the case files he had in his office from current cases, then Teri took me and a paramedic in training out to get food and go to the law enforcement center. We had to go to the law enforcement center to get evidence and get Teri’s new ID made because her last name changed when she got married. She showed us the 911 dispatch room, then we went to get the evidence. They ended up giving us all the evidence they had for the coroner’s office, so we were walking through the halls with bags of clothes and boxes of fenders that were tested for DNA evidence. We went and got her ID made, and then went back to the office. By that time it was 4:15, so I finished reading a case file and then we all went home.
Not much happened on Thursday. I went to the morning meeting, ran a few errands with Teri, and helped her print some papers. After that, I went with Gary to the morgue to give them a BRT permit and fingerprinted a woman from a call Gary ran that morning. After that, we went back to the office and updated case files. We were going to go out to Mauldin to give the woman’s family her wedding band, but they were not answering the phone, so we went to get a part for Gary’s AR-15. We updated more case files after that and went home. On Friday, Gary and I went in the morning to another autopsy. I did not even know anything about that decedent, but I went to the autopsy anyway and after it was over Gary let me fingerprint him. We also fingerprinted a woman who had died during the night and took a blood spot from her. Her death was ruled natural because she had a good number of heart problems. After that, we went back to the office for a little while and then went back out to get food, then back to the office and did more paperwork during the afternoon. I managed to escape most of the April Fools’ pranks that were going on with the exception of one that Gary pulled on me.
We do not have long until senior year is over, but that does not mean I have to stop going back to the office. I will keep going until they kick me out. Most people do not understand why I think dead people are so interesting, but I find the job of the coroner fascinating. Yes it may be gross and smelly and at times emotionally draining, but I would have no problem pursuing it as my career in the future.