Fremont County Coroner Public Health and Safety Media Release – 04/03/2017: The Fremont County Coroner’s Office is issuing a Public Health and Safety warning concerning the use and availability of illegal drugs in the County, specifically, Cannabis and its related derivatives.
The Coroner’s Office is required by law to release relevant toxicology information when it is related to any death. While our office will not get involved in discussing the changing values or opinions on the legality of Cannabis and its related derivatives, we do deal with the results of impaired driving as a result of the use of any substance, legal or illegal. Impaired driving was directly involved in a motor vehicle collision on March 14th, 2017 near Lander, which resulted in the deaths of three young people and serious injuries to another. We are seeing a trend of increased involvement and presence of such substances in recorded deaths.
The driver of the vehicle that lost control and precipitated the event in this case showed Cannabis by-product levels that were higher than 10 times the limit that is considered impaired driving by studies from the National institutes of Health and the Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These substances are also included under the Wyoming impaired driving statutes as being illegal for motor vehicle operation under WS 31-5-233. Thus the manners of death in these cases are ruled an accident for the driver, and homicides for both passengers. Willful actions that result in the death of other individuals, in this case driving while impaired, make those deaths homicides. All individuals, regardless of age, need to remember that personal choices can have tragic consequences of loss for both families and the community as a whole.
It is hoped that awareness of the circumstances in this case will spur friends, families, and the public as a whole take steps to safeguard against any person driving while impaired, whether by alcohol or any other substance.
Frequently Asked Questions
***Link to Information on Indigent or Unclaimed Burials: Indegent Resources (click to open pdf file)***
1. How do I get copies of records? Copies of coroner dockets, reports, and files can be requested by filing the proper form to the office address as listed on the main coroner page, or as listed on the forms. The request must be in writing on the appropriate form and be completed in full according to the rules indicated for each type of request.
2. Is there a cost for copies? Reports are provided to family members at no cost. All other parties may be charged fees as approved by the Fremont County Commission to cover time and materials.
3. Are coroner files public record? Public records and information are defined as of July 1st, 2011 by State statute. Cases that are under investigation, or in the process of adjudication, are not available as public information by Wyoming and Federal Statutes until those processes are complete. Medical records obtained by the coroner’s office are not subject to secondary release as restricted by Federal Law. Once a case has been closed and/or completed the judicial process, coroner dockets are public record by Wyoming Statute. See Statutes as referenced on the “Request for Records” page for details on what is or is not public record.
4. Where can I get copies of Death Certificates? Families should request copies through the local funeral home/registrar that handles the remains. While the coroner provides information, and certifies the death, our office does not provide the certificates. In the case of past deaths, copies of death certificates should be requested from the Wyoming Department of Health, Vital Statistics.
5. Why is the Coroner’s Office involved in the death of my loved one? The Coroner’s Office is required by State Law (WS 7-4-104) to investigate all deaths that were not anticipated and may involve any of the following: Violent or criminal action; Apparent suicide; Accident; Apparent drug or chemical overdose or toxicity; Unattended death; Apparent child abuse; The deceased is in State custody in any manner; Cause is unknown; Public health hazard; Deceased is unidentified or unclaimed. The Coroner’s Office has trained investigators who are responsible for determining the cause and manner of death, confirm identification of the deceased, and provide notification of next of kin.
6. Is an autopsy needed? While this office always tries to accommodate the wishes of a family, sometimes an autopsy is necessary to determine the cause and manner of death. In many cases an autopsy will resolve many of the questions a family has about the nature of the event or death. Autopsies are performed in about a third of the yearly number of cases, and are at the discretion of the Coroner.
7. When will we get autopsy results? While often a physical cause, such as a heart attack, will be immediately apparent on examination, in many cases final results must wait for lab examinations and testing results. The final written autopsy report is usually available in four to six weeks.
8. What are the costs? Any investigation costs, including autopsies, and other services such as transportation of the deceased, consultation on results or the investigation, are all provided by the Coroner’s Office at no cost to the involved families. This is part of the public services provided by Fremont County Government.
9. How do I receive or claim property or personal possessions? Any property recovered and held by the coroner’s office can only be released to authorized next of kin, or their designee, by proper identification and signature. In specific instances, contact the office for assistance.
10. How recent does a case have to be to obtain records? The Fremont County Coroner’s Office has files and records going back to 1885. Older cases will have varying degrees of information, and are only those where the death, or incident that caused the death, occurred in Fremont County.