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County coroner: Drug overdoses killed more people that car crashes in 2016

Press & Journal Staff
Posted 3/8/17

Drug overdose caused more deaths last year than car accidents in Dauphin County, Coroner Graham S. Hetrick announced Wednesday.

“In December, a record 12 overdoses occurred. So many lives have …

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County coroner: Drug overdoses killed more people that car crashes in 2016

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Drug overdose caused more deaths last year than car accidents in Dauphin County, Coroner Graham S. Hetrick announced Wednesday.

“In December, a record 12 overdoses occurred. So many lives have been taken too soon,” he said in a press release.

Eighty-five overdose deaths occurred in 2016, compared to 71 in 2015. Car accidents killed 66 people in 2016.

Hetrick released the 18-page 2016 end of year report, which includes statistics on sudden and unexplained deaths, accidental deaths, homicides, suicides and other deaths of questionable circumstances that occurred last year in the county.

Out of 947 total cases investigated by the coroner’s office in 2016, 238 were accidental deaths involving a motor vehicle accident (66), fall (61), drowning (9), fire (2), choking (4), co-sleeping (1) or overdose (85).

The coroner conducted a total of 21 homicide investigations, a slight decrease from 25 homicides in 2015. Of the 21 deaths, 16 were by gunshot, two by traumatic injury, and one each by stabbing/strangulation, overdose and drowning.

Last year, the coroner investigated 286 natural deaths resulting from health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and renal failure. In 2015, the coroner conducted 310 natural death investigations.

“Opioid death and the ensuing investigations and prosecutions will have a significant impact on both the coroner’s medical services budget and the district attorney’s office,” the report states in its conclusions section.

Other numbers from the report:

• There were 51 suicide deaths in 2016, including 24 by gunshot and 15 by hanging. Six were by overdose, and six were by traumatic injury.

Other conclusions from the report include:

• “This office is busier than in previous years. Investigations have gotten more complex and more time consuming, which has increased the work demand for this office.”

• “We must prepare for the future needs of increased manpower and facilities due to ever increasing demands for advanced forensic services and increasing caseload.”

• “We must collaborate with adjoining counties to prepare for mutual aid in case of mass disaster.”

The potential of a multi-county facility also was discussed, to help keep costs down.

“With increase in case load and the growth of technology in the field of forensic medical/legal investigation, we always need updating and expansion of our facility and equipment. This office is exploring a possible multi-county facility for both cost savings and the elimination of redundancy in facilities and equipment, which will result in major financial savings to taxpayers as well as inter-county cooperation on large scenes or in case of mass disaster.”