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Coroner caseload up 19 percent in 2017

Jan 11, 2018 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The number of cases the Fremont County Coroner's Office covered last year rose 19 percent compared to 2016.

Coroner Mark Stratmoen said the increase hasn't brought a significant strain to his office so far, though, and if trends continue, his agency is likely to end the 2018 fiscal year 10 percent under budget.

Alcohol, cannabis

With 174 cases in 2017, the year was one of the least busy for the coroner's office in the last 10 years.

Despite the low number of calls, Stratmoen noted there continues to be a "remarkable spike in cannabis-related deaths and alcohol-related deaths," especially in regard to motor vehicle deaths.

Of the nine homicide deaths in 2017, six were motor-vehicle deaths that took place during just two incidents.

However, no vehicular deaths have been recorded since Sept. 2.

"For Fremont County, that is remarkable," Stratmoen said. "I like to think that our prevention efforts have had some effect, but we might just have gotten lucky."

Prevention

Since 2016, Fremont County law enforcement agencies have been working together as part of a county-wide, multi-agency traffic effort to cut down on impaired driving and enforce seat belt laws in an effort to reduce the number of fatal crashes in Fremont County.

An operation over the New Year's holiday weekend was the first of at least six planned in Fremont County for the year. Fremont County police arrested 13 drunken drivers between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2. Law enforcement also made 275 traffic stops and issued 32 speeding citations, one seat belt citation, 72 other citations and 188 warnings.

The next operation is scheduled for Super Bowl weekend.

Traffic death profile

Stratmoen's office recently completed a six-year analysis of motor vehicle deaths which indicated that, most commonly, those deaths involved single vehicles with white male drivers aged 19 to 35 who were not wearing seatbelts and were under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana.

Stratmoen said that creating a profile was important because "a lot of people assume that traffic fatalities in Fremont County are someone else's problem."

Methamphetamine-related deaths rose in 2017 as well, to 10 - the highest number of meth-related deaths since 2015, when there were 15 such incidents.

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