“Who Wants to go on a Coroner Tour?!”

“Who Wants to go on a Coroner Tour?!”

I don’t know how you would respond to this question, but I jumped at the opportunity.

Becky, our Director of Community Development, set up this tour and although she was met with some resistance, she filled up the spots with community professionals and had just enough space for me to tag along with my dad, Jeff Turner, one of the O’Connor owners.

Now I know most kids don’t grow up hearing about the Coroner’s office, but I did. My dad was always so impressed with the level of professionalism, service & efficiency he received from the Orange County office – they made his job easier, and in this profession, that’s highly valued. So after hearing about the Coroner for so long, I was very interested to see it for myself. I’ve grown up around mortuaries, took an anatomy class in high school, I’ve dissected animals & seen cadavers; I felt confident that the Coroner wasn’t going to freak me out any more than any of those experiences.

Jeff, Lesley & Becky

Jeff, Lesley & Becky

 

We gathered in a room and were greeted warmly by Lesley, a long-time employee there whose bubbly personality, smile and zeal for what she did was a charming and sweet surprise. She started by telling us about how the original Coroner building had been leveled in 2001 and re-opened in 2004 with state-of-the art technology, design and innovation. The building is beautiful, modern and bright, taking away from the grimness of its purpose.

We visited one of the private autopsy rooms that didn’t quite resemble the CSI show sets, or the dark, dank ones Scully used in X-Files. They were bright, white rooms, clean, organized and spacious.

Then Lesley took us upstairs to the training center where courses are given to people keeping up licenses, and other specialties. She said that we were going to see a “Training Scene” where, for example, applicants for the Deputy Coroner job, would be asked to assess the situation and give their opinion on the cause and manner of death. “But don’t worry,” Lesley said, “these are mannequins that you’ll see, not real bodies . . .”

Well, we entered the room and my father, a man who worked as an embalmer for over 15 years, jaw-dropped looked at me and said, “Wait, is this real?” – the scene had a large, 250-280 pound man lying across his couch, and who, judging by the swelling and discoloration, had been dead for over 3 days. “At least we don’t have the smell,” my dad whispered. I won’t give details here, but it was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.

(To see one of the mannequins they have, click here – please note, they are a bit graphic)

We went on to see the main autopsy room where all autopsies are performed in the morning between 8am-1pm. Orange County (click here for stats) had 18,915 deaths in 2012, 7,106 of which were investigated by the Coroner’s office. Lesley was proud to inform us that of all those deaths, only 63 of them were homicides (vs. 960 in LA County in 2009, their most recent statistics), “We live in a VERY safe county” she said.

Sharing Hearts.

Sharing Hearts.

 

During the tour, we came across a beautiful mural commemorating the wonderful work of One Legacy, an organization specializing in organ donation that works with the coroner and families through the donation process. The photo above depicts a real scenario where the teacher (seated) received the heart of her young student’s mother. The little girl who lost her mother is listening to her mother’s transplanted heart beat.

This tour was an absolutely incredible experience that demystified, fascinated, and assured me of the good in people. The staff we met were passionate about helping their community, giving justice to the victims that come into their doors, and closure to the families who walk out of them.

I feel like I met a hero in Lesley, a kind person doing an difficult job with compassion, love, and pride.

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So, will you be joining us for the next tour of the Coroner’s office?? : )

Maybe you’re interested but you’d rather start off in baby-steps with a tour of our mortuary first, just let Becky or myself know. We’d love to have you!

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

21 Comments

  1. Patricia Kolstad says:

    Neil and I toured the OC Coroner’s office when it re-opened. It was unbelievably realistic, and incredibly “state of the art”. I can remember watching the cable program “North Mission Road” about the Los Angeles Coroner’s office (and worked with the extensively during my days in funeral service in Long Beach) and to describe the two would be like comparing apples to oranges. The progressive work of the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the State of California to design and create the California Coroner Training Center was a landmark decision that raised the bar and trained thousands of death investigators across the nation. We are the privileged few who are blessed to work with such an outstanding Orange County organization. Bravo!

  2. April Yocky says:

    Great job Molly! I really enjoyed your blog. It was very interesting and informative. I particularly liked the info on our local Orange County homicide stats. Always nice to hear! I never realized a tour could be taken at a Coroner facility and would love to go sometime.

    • April,
      Thank you so much for reading! The tour of the facility is actually a fairly new feature of the Coroner operations, I think we were only the 2nd tour they put through. It’s a monthly thing they are doing and it’s free of charge. Since talking to my family about my experience almost all of them have said they want to go. Maybe we have a family of the mortuary tour?? It would be so great to have you along! Thanks again for reading & I’ll keep you in mind if we put something like that together!

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