Report tracks rise in drug-induced deaths, decline in traffic fatalities

November 20, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Investigators from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office probed 22 deaths in and just outside Issaquah last year, including the suspect’s death in a fatal shootout at Clark Elementary School.

The information comes from the agency’s annual report on suspicious, sudden, unexpected and violent deaths in King County. In 2011, King County experienced the fewest homicides and traffic deaths in more than a decade, even as drug-induced deaths increased.

By the numbers

King County Medical Examiner’s Office investigators probed unexpected and violent deaths. The agency investigated 22 deaths in Issaquah and the nearby area last year.

2011

  • 11 — accidental deaths
  • 7 — suicides
  • 2 — traffic accident deaths
  • 1 — homicide
  • 1 — death due to undetermined causes
  • 22 — total deaths investigated in and near Issaquah

2010

  • 12 — accidental deaths
  • 3 — traffic accident deaths
  • 2 — homicides
  • 1 — suicide
  • 1 — death due to undetermined causes
  • 19 — total deaths investigated in and near Issaquah

2009

  • 13 — accidental deaths
  • 3 — suicides
  • 1 — traffic accident death
  • 1 — death due to undetermined causes
  • 18 — total deaths investigated in and near Issaquah

Source: King County Medical Examiner’s Office

The medical examiner’s office assumed jurisdiction last year in more than 2,000 deaths — 926 natural deaths, 594 accidental deaths, 265 suicides, 135 traffic accident deaths, 54 homicides and 62 deaths due to undetermined causes.

The tally in Issaquah included 11 accidental deaths, seven suicides, two traffic accident deaths, one homicide and one death due to undetermined causes. (The agency determines the location of death based on the nearest city to a fatal incident.)

The homicide is the death of Ronald W. Ficker, 51, a gunman shot by Issaquah police on the Clark Elementary campus in September 2011. In May, King County inquest jurors determined the involved officers faced a life-threatening scenario and appropriately used lethal force.

The medical examiner’s report released Nov. 15 includes only deaths under the agency’s office jurisdiction.

Officials estimate 13,355 deaths occurred countywide last year. The medical examiner’s office assumed jurisdiction in 2,112 deaths and conducted autopsies in 1,196 cases, or 59 percent.

The agency recorded fewer homicides and traffic accident deaths last year than in 2010.

More people died from accidental overdoses, 203, than from traffic accidents, 135. The number of deaths in which investigators detected oxycodone increased by 30 percent, from 65 in 2010 to 85 last year.

“Every death we review receives our fullest respect and attention,” said Dr. Richard Harruff, chief medical examiner. “We work to investigate and resolve the manner and cause of death as quickly as possible, and in the most scientific and professional manner, so grieving loved ones can find some solace.”

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