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Thread: Interview with Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy

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    Interview with Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy

    Q - Tell us about the office, how busy is the office, and what is the typical coroner day?

    A - There are approximately 14,000 deaths per year in Clark County. Our office will be involved in 68+% of those deaths in some form or fashion. Of that number, 3600+ deaths will come to our office for further examination. A typical day in the coroner’s office starts between 6:30-7:00 a.m. for the Coroner and will conclude between 4-6 p.m. in the evening. The administrative staff will handle 10,000 phone calls per month; there are a total of 65+ employees; five forensic pathologists; a group of forensic technicians; administrative staff and on scene medicolegal death investigators.

    Q - When did you become coroner and why?

    A - The Coroner’s position has allowed me the unique opportunity to use my law enforcement investigative skills and broaden my horizons in the medicolegal death investigation process. The Coroner’s position is an appointed position, not elected. I became the Coroner because I truly believe that we are not in the death business but in the people business in dealing with the many families we see every day as a result of the death of a loved one. I became the Coroner 8/26/2002.

    Q - What experience did you bring with you to the Coroners’ office?

    A - I started in law enforcement in 1972 in Kansas City, Kansas; came to Nevada in 1980 and continued my law enforcement career; graduate of the FBI National Academy; and have a doctorate in business administration. I have 35 years of public service.

    Q - How much territory does your office cover?

    A - The Clark County Coroner’s Office is responsible for the 8060 square miles of Clark County. We also provide additional autopsy assistance and medicolegal death investigations to adjoining counties.

    Q - What are some of the future plans for the Coroners office?

    A - For the next 5-10 years is expansion of this site or relocation to a larger facility; expansion of the new Adult DUI Education Program; utilization of more technology including the ability for the investigators to do all of their reports and download all of their information from the field; continue expansion of staff with an ever increasing growing population within Clark County; continued medicolegal death investigation and child death investigations of our staff is always paramount.

    Q - How you reach out to the community?

    A - We do this in several manners; one of which is to utilize a Coroner Visitor Program for youthful reckless and violent offenders; the Coroner Collection Store which you can locate at Coroner Education and Training Fund of the Clark County Coroner's Office of Las Vegas, Nevada.; as well as the now new Adult DUI Education Program. We are also involved in the “Every 15 Minute” Program in the local high schools and always enjoy the opportunity to do things to prevent deaths verus dealing with the devastation of a death for a family.

    Q - How many deaths per year do you respond to at Lake Mead?

    A - We respond to about 5 deaths per year in Lake Mead; unfortunately in 2006 we responded to a total of 10 deaths at Lake Mead.

    Q - How many divers have died at the lake, or have died as a result of Scuba Diving at Lake Mead?

    A - There have been two deaths one diver, using a re-breather about 5 years ago and most recently the death of a tech diver which is still under investigation.

    Q - What is the most common circumstance that results in death at the lake?

    A - First would be drowning and the second would be motor vehicle accidents.

    Q - What time of year are deaths highest at Lake Mead?

    A - Of course when there are more people at the lake there is more probability of death; but they run the gamete of times of day as well as times of the year. Many of the drowning deaths that occur at Lake Mead do in fact result in individuals being under the influence of some type of substance as well as individuals who over estimate their ability to swim and put themselves at risk by using inappropriate flotation devices, etc.

    Q - What to do if you find something while diving that you believe to be human remains or partial human remains?

    A - You should contact the park service immediately who will in turn contact the Clark County Coroner’s Office. These may be artifacts from a previous era or could be partial human remains from something more recent.

    Q - What about bodies that look as though as if they have just died, should a diver ever bring them ashore?

    A - If possible, the diver should mark the location if the diver can ensure that the body and the location can be relocated. If not, then the body could be brought ashore but is to be handled in a very careful manner; it is best to leave the body where it is found and mark that location specifically so that divers that have training in body recovery can bring the body ashore.

    Q - How do divers get involved in recovery efforts? Who leads the efforts?

    A - All of that is done by the National Park Service Diver Recovery Teams and they would need to be contacted directly.

    Q - Do you believe the water level issues will increase the instances of divers or other lake patrons finding human remains?

    A - The lake level issues and the increase or decrease in those lake levels may in fact increase the possibility of human remains or bones being found that may be animal in nature that could be mistaken for human remains. Unfortunately, that can only be determined appropriately by an anthropologist. So these lake level fluctuations may in fact increase our number of possible finds or what is commonly referred to as PHRs – possible human remains.

    Q - How often in general do people mistake animal remains or something else for human remains?

    A - On a regular basis that mistake is made, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

    Q - I have been told that you are a diver, is this true?

    A - Yes, I am an advance open water diver and received my dive certification 9-20-1984. I began diving in Lake Mead and have also had dives in the Caribbean, both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and enjoy diving to this day. In the 80s I was also involved in a recovery effort of some boats that sank in Calville Bay after a storm, but the vast majority of my experience is recreational.

    Q - Have you ever used your dive experience professionally for the coroners’ office?

    A - No, I have not. While I think it gives me some insight in speaking with recovery teams, I have never trained in that particular area.

    Q - What is your “ideal” or “favorite” dive?

    A - Currently the majority of my recreational diving in done in the Carribean. I enjoy reef diving but especially enjoy wreck diving and looking at the different things that wreck dives have to offer.

    Q - Do you have a good dive story for us?

    A - It is always important for you to review and utilize the training that you’ve been given. A number of years ago as a young diver I was diving the rapids below the dam in the Colorado and got caught in an eddy. The plan to conserve air was to use our snorkesl and inflate our bcd’s and swim out of the eddy. The water was much more turbulent than we had anticipated and utilization of the snorkels was almost impossible and I kept being pushed further and further under the water. As I attempted to get my regulator the swirling current was making that much more difficult. I was in a situation where I had run out of breath and needed that regulator. I was having trouble locating it and remembered my dive training to dip my shoulder and sweep with my arm. I recovered the regulator (remember this was prior to a secondary air source being required) and safely began breathing under water and continued the dive. It brought home the importance of safety training and practice. Training is vitally important to the safety of you and the people that you dive with.

    In closing, I want everyone to remember that each day is a gift that is given to us. This world that we live in and our lives are precious. Enjoy it to its absolutely fullest, but understand that it is truly a gift. Wish everybody a happy and safe future.

    On behalf of Las Vegas Divers thank you for your time to sit down with us for this interview, we hope to dive with you soon, in a “non professional” capacity of course!
    Last edited by bmp51; 06-10-2008 at 12:22. Reason: Fixed Web link

    -- BMP --

    Las Vegas Divers

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