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Monday, August 06, 2007



As a Deputy Sheriff I was also a Deputy Coroner. This meant that the beat deputy had to respond to all unattended death cases. Accidents, homicides, suicides, drug overdoses, natural causes. It wasn't always pleasant but after a bit you became immune to what you saw.

She had not been seen by her neighbors for over a week. It was winter. The neighbors were worried and called the local police, who responded with the local ambulance service. After the normal waiting for permissions and the arrival of the Fire Department, who had the necessary equipment to force entry in the least destructive manner, the door was popped.

The thermostat in the house was set at almost 90f (32c). They found her, deceased, on her bed. Nothing could be done until the Coroner's Office (me) arrived to take charge of her remains and to secure her property. There were no signs of foul play and given that she was nearly 85 years old, all the signs pointed to "Death By Natural Cause".

Contacted next of kin, who requested that her body be transported to a local mortuary.

It was time to place the corpus into a "body bag" for transportation.

After all that time AND all that heat, putrification was pretty ripe. The body had bloated badly. Skin stretched to its limit. As soon as we attempted to move her, her abdominal cavity ruptured. I was use to the smell of death but this was beyond my capabilities to handle. Beyond anyone's capabilities.

Five grown men made an immediate exit out the bedroom door. All at the same time! Considering that most doorways will only allow the passage of one, possibly two people at a time, the issue became problematic. Forget about manners. Forget about politeness. Every person there had the same thought:
Just get me out that door while I can still breath!
The odor had permeated the entire house as we fought each other towards the front door and the blessed beauty of the smog choked "fresh" air outside. Even holding one's breath was futile. The aroma was so strong that you could taste it. See it. Feel it.

Those waiting outside erupted into hysterical laughter as each of us collapsed to our knees in the front yard.
None of them would even get close to us. Our clothing reeked of the stench.

Eventually, we still had our jobs to do regarding this matter. It was a case of dedication to the worst parts of the job to accomplish the mission. Borrowed some disposable "hazardous waste suits" from a local oil refinery's fire department and some self-contained breathing apparatus.

Finally got the remains loaded and transported and secured the property. The administrative side of the Coroner's Office would do the follow-up in the next day or so.

Contacted the Sarge for my area and got permission to return to the S.O. for a shower and a change of uniform. No matter how often that uniform was dry cleaned, I could always detect the scent of that night. Eventually had to burn it. Our garage never could get the smell out of the patrol car, either. It usually sat at the rear of the parking lot. Used only by reserves, rookies, and the poor sobs who had no other car to drive on nights we were short of vehicles.

Today, I can look back and laugh. Well, it has been 30 years or so. What a Keystone Kop image we must have presented to the lookie-loos. Our bodies erupting from that front door like gel from a toothpaste tube. A case of "Everyman for himself" and screw that "all-for-one, one-for-all" bullshit. Get out of my way NOW or DIE!

And now that I have written this, I just realized how many of you might be sitting down to enjoy a breakfast/lunch/dinner.
"Sorry about that. Chief"
Bon Appetite!

I hope each of you has a fantastic week. I will be returning to work on my Tuesday night shift. Just the "normal" pre-incident aches and pains I always live with. Didn't even need the heating pad or "magic fingers" last night.

Unless something drastic happens, I'll take Judy out to dinner tonight.

Talk to you tomorrow!




Sands At Wailea
'Iao Valley
Classic Hawai'i

"Let's all be careful out there!"