McAuslan: Fremont County above the national average for non-natural deaths in 2012

Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan, center, gave his year-end report to the Fremont County Commission early Tuesday. (Joshua Scheer photo)

Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan, center, gave his year-end report to the Fremont County Commission early Tuesday. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – According to Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan, there were 397 deaths in the county in 2012.

Of the those, his office investigated more than half of the deaths, 221 in total. McAuslan reported the total is 38 more than the number his office handled in 2011. Sixty, or 27.3 percent were non-natural.

According to the statistics he presented to the Fremont County Commission, the county surpassed the national average for accidental deaths, suicides, homicides and motor-vehicle deaths. The average calculations are based on population size. All the numbers presented are preliminary, pending completion of investigations.

Homicides totaled eight in 2012, two of which were children. Four of the homicides were motor-vehicle deaths.McAuslan said the rate of homicides was 4.3 times the national average. However, the number was “considerably less” than 2011’s 23. Of 2011’s homicides, 16 involved motor vehicles. “The decrease of 12 less motor vehicle homicides in 2012 might be attributed to increased enforcement and public awareness on drinking and driving,” McAuslan said.

The county’s suicide percentage is also four times the national average, he reported. In 2012, 18 people died by suicide. “We do have one pending case that may turn out to be a suicide,” McAuslan said. The current number matches the county’s all-time high number of suicides. If the pending case is determined to be suicide, 2012 would be a record year. There were 14 in 2011.

McAuslan told Chairman Doug Thompson that his office no longer has a line item for suicide prevention. He said it was cut several years ago as budgets tightened. The Suicide Prevention Task Force is grant funded.

“The rate in Fremont County for traffic fatalities is still almost 3 times the national average for our population,” McAuslan wrote in his report. There were 13 people killed in vehicle-related incidents. Of the total, 62 percent involved alcohol and/or drugs, he added. Four the deaths were determined to be homicides. Four pedestrians were killed and two deaths involved motorcycles. Seven were killed in single-vehicle roll-overs. Of those 7, McAuslan said two were wearing seat belts. “Increased seat belt usage in single-vehicle roll-overs would most likely help reduce the traffic fatality numbers even more,” he said.

There were 24 accidental deaths, which is 1.6 times higher than the national average.

Of the coroner’s cases, 53, about 24 percent, involved drugs and alcohol. That is down from 29 percent in 2011. Of the non-natural deaths, 38 of 60 were drug/alcohol related, about 63 percent, which is above 2011’s 54 percent.

McAuslan said alcohol continues to be the primary abused substance. There were 28 drug-related deaths, and prescription drugs were factors in 19. “In comparison, in 2011, only 6 of 15 non-alcohol drug related deaths involved prescription drugs,” he wrote.

“For deaths involving alcohol, the average Blood Alcohol (BA) level in accidents is 0.37, and the average BA level in motor-vehicle homicides is 0.28,” McAuslan noted. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is 0.08.

He said that when both drugs and alcohol are involved, they are classified based on which substance was more prominent in the individual’s system.

McAuslan said he would make his information available for other agencies and programs for use in prevention and grant applications. It also helps raise education, he said.