Harrison Co. Coroner's Office seeks safer conditions, trading van for truck
CORYDON, IN (WAVE) – After more than a decade of transporting the deceased with its van, the Harrison County Coroner's office will soon receive a much-needed new vehicle that will better protect the living from the dead.
"We've been called out three times in one day, or we'll have 2 or 3 weeks with nothing," Caylin Spencer, Deputy Coroner for the Harrison County Coroner's office, said.
Spencer and the others at the Harrison County Coroner's Office never know when they'll be called out but whenever someone needs them, they respond in a van.
"We keep body bags of different sizes, cleaning supplies, hazmat type suits," Spencer said.
That and a stretcher is about all that fits but they make everything they need to transport a body go inside.
"And, a big piece of the door just fell off," Spencer said.
The van is 12 years old and sometimes doesn't start. But that's not why they're replacing it.
When one of the coroners gets called out to pick up a body, they have to put them in the back seat of their van. That means they're only actually about a foot and a half away from the body, leaving them vulnerable to catching infectious diseases.
"When we pick someone up, we don't know what they have," Spencer said.
Without access to medical records or an understanding of what the bodies may be carrying, it's often an unknown situation when they respond on the scene to pick up a body. And that, Spencer said, can get dangerous.
Last year, they picked up bodies with tuberculosis and Neisseria Meningitis. Both of the aforementioned are airborne diseases, Spencer said, and able to be caught from the bodies they're transporting.
"The meningitis case last year, I did have to take antibiotics after that from the exposure," Spencer said.
The office got the idea for a truck with a sealed cab from another coroner in a different county who did catch a disease from a body, Spencer said. They don't want anything like that to happen so they asked Harrison County leaders to provide funds to buy a truck for themselves.
It cost around $30,000 and is a basic model; not even power windows are included, Spencer said. But the important thing is that the truck will seal them off from the bodies and any diseases they may be carrying.
"If it's something we can avoid, we'd like to do that," she said.
At the end of April, a 2017 Chevy Silverado will arrive, ready for them to load in their equipment. It'll take a few weeks to get it all outfitted and ready to go but once it is, the van will become a backup vehicle.
Spencer said it's a relief to see the county putting their safety first, allowing them to separate the living from the dead.
"It's a relief to know that if there is something really serious, that I'm not going to be unnecessarily exposed to it," Spencer said.
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