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2015 Annual Report of the Clay County Coroner to the Clay County Fiscal Court

By: Clay County Coroner

May 12, 2015

Danny L. Finley 

The Clay County Coroner’s Office would like to thank Judge Asher and the District Magistrates of the Clay County Fiscal Court for recognizing the value of the services provided by the Clay County Coroner’s Office and it’s contributions to the public health and welfare of its citizens.

In calendar year 2015 the Clay County Coroner’s Office responded to ninety five requests for services. Thirty three of these cases were female and sixty two were male. Fifteen cases were dispatched to the Emergency Room at Memorial Hospital, one was in ICU, and three were patients from Laurel Creek Healthcare Center.

The primary duties of Coroner are to identify the remains and to determine cause and manner of death. Eighteen cases were determined by this office to be Accidental; two were Suicides and six were Homicides. We are currently working to identify partial skeletal remains by DNA analysis. All others cases were determined to be natural deaths. This represents a significant increase in the number of Homicide deaths from the one homicide death in 2014. In all six Homicide cases in Clay County in 2015, all victims were shot by another.

Five of the eighteen accidental deaths were caused by drug overdose. Two more drug related deaths were determined to be accidental where chronic drug abuse was a contributing factor. In total, drugs contributed to death in eight cases. This is up from the two overdose deaths and seven total drug related deaths in 2014, but is still well below the epidemic levels of twenty five overdoses and forty three total drug related deaths seen in 2011. Oxycodone and Alprazolam are nearly absent from toxicology results. Toxicology also indicates a significant drop in quantity for both Benzodiazepines and Opioids. Methamphetamine currently is the primary drug of choice in Clay County overdose deaths in 2015. This does not represent an increase in total Methamphetamine cases. It does represent an increase in the quantity of Methamphetamine in those cases. Heroin, while a major problem in other areas of Kentucky, has not been detected in toxicology results from the Coroner’s Office at this time. Let me once again state that 2015 levels are up from 2014 levels but are well below the epidemic levels of 2011. Other accidental deaths included electrical shock, a bulldozer rollover, and hypothermia.

There were six auto fatalities and two ATV fatalities in Clay County in 2015. Four auto fatalities were attributed to two, auto versus auto collisions, one case was an auto versus rocky embankment, and another was an auto versus rollover embankment.

The Clay County Morgue has refrigeration units located at the Clay County Ambulance Service. The Clay County Ambulance Service does transport remains for the Coroner’s office.  Clay County EMS responded to seventy of the cases reported and transported fifty of those cases to the Clay County Morgue. The availability of refrigeration units is a tremendous asset for the county and for this office.

In 2015, the Clay County Coroner’s Office ordered 14 autopsies, 31 blood screens and 13 urine screens. Autopsies are transported at county expense to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Frankfort. Singleton Mortuary Service in London provides transportation services to the Coroner’s Office. The 14 autopsies reflect the increase in the number of Homicides.

Manchester Police Department responded to four cases in 2015. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office responded to sixteen cases and Kentucky State Police responded to seventeen cases.

Of the ninety five cases requiring services, sixty nine utilized the services of local funeral facilities within Clay County and twenty two were released to facilities outside Clay County.

One trend that is increasing steadily each year is the number of cremations. The Coroner’s Office must authorize all cremations. In 2015, the Clay County Coroner’s Office authorized eighteen cremations. Eleven of these cases were requests for cremation authorization only. In those cases, except for the cremation authorization, they would not have been Coroner’s cases. Three cremations were authorized by court order as wards of the county. The remaining four cases where cremation was authorized were also Coroner cases. In 2011 this office authorized two cremations.

Recent legislation affecting Coroners offices involves training. Deputy Coroners who do not obtain mandatory training credit for the year will not be able to perform post mortem investigations. They can be reappointed to the office but will be required to complete the forty hour basic training course again instead of the eighteen hours of recertification training. All Coroners’ Office personnel are current with their training requirements. Also, when a Coroner vacates his office for any reason, he/she has ten days to relinquish all records to the incoming Coroner or face a fine of $100 per day thereafter.

In addition to authorizing cremations, duties performed by the Coroner’s Office involves electronic filing of death certificates through the Kentucky Electronic Death Registration System, filing provisional notices of death with the local health department, authorizing autopsies, obtaining toxicology, blood, urine, and vitreous samples, reporting deaths through the Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System, reviewing and reporting child deaths to the local and state Child Fatality Review teams, Investigating and reporting SIDS and SUDI deaths, reporting overdose deaths to the Commonwealth Attorney, Medical Examiner’s Office and the Kentucky State Police. Motor Vehicle Collisions are also reported to the Kentucky State Police. This office also reports occupational deaths to the Department of Labor and reports to other agencies such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission. This office attends meetings and has prepared and filed with local Emergency Management a Mass Fatality Plan. The Clay County Coroner’s Office is registered with NamUS.  NamUs is a national repository sponsored by the Department of Justice to aid in the location of missing persons and the identification of unclaimed remains. This office is also authorized to access KASPER reports. In 2015 the Clay County Coroner’s Office certified seventy one death certificates and filed sixty provisional notices of death.

Media relations, communication with families, funeral establishments, law enforcement and judicial circuits are integral services provided by this office.

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