Report: Suicides, accidental deaths up slightly in 2010

Sharna Johnson

There was a slight increase in suicides and accidental deaths in Curry County during 2010.

The annual report prepared by the state Office of the Medical Investigator shows there were six suicides in 2010, up from four, and 24 accidental deaths, an increase from 21 in 2009.

Deaths investigated through autopsy and toxicology samples by OMI — there were 81 in Curry County in 2010 — include deaths that are “sudden, violent, unexpected or where a person is found dead and the cause is unknown,” according to the report.

From those investigations, a death is either classified as accidental, homicide, suicide or undetermined.

State Police Capt. Jimmy Glascock said unattended deaths are a common call for officers, typically when someone discovers a loved one or acquaintance has passed away.

“We get the call somebody’s discovered someone deceased and they’re either classified as an unattended death (meaning no physician present), a homicide or suicide,” he said. “A lot of those turn out to be health or natural causes.”

Officers respond and document the scene looking for signs of foul play. “If it’s suspicious then we go further,” he said.

For two years homicides in the county have stayed at two, a drop from 2008, when there were four, according to the report.

Natural deaths — 48 in 2010 — account for the single largest classification each year, with accidental deaths being the second largest number of deaths in the county, a number which has risen, for the most part, from year to year.

Ten years ago there were 13 accidental deaths in Curry County, there were 20 by 2006, and 24 in 2010.

Types of accidental deaths can include traffic crashes, industrial or agricultural fatalities and other types of deaths that were not natural, self inflicted or caused by someone else, he said.

Glascock said fatalities from traffic crashes in Curry County, which includes data from all law enforcement agencies, more than doubled in 2010, jumping from three in 2009, to seven.

“I’d love to see our (fatal crash) numbers stay in the lower range,” Glascock said.

In two of the seven traffic crash deaths, improper restraints or safety belts were a factor. None were alcohol related, he said.

Looking over the past 10 years, Glascock said alcohol and improper restraints commonly factor in to fatalities, such as in 2009, when two of the three fatalities involved the presence of alcohol; or in 2006 when there were 13 fatal crashes, four involving alcohol and eight where improper restraints were used in vehicles.

“In many of those cases, when a person’s ejected from a vehicle their survivability diminishes or their chance of death increases,” he said.

Glascock said he believes alcohol related fatalities are down in the county because of an increase in enforcement tied to growth at the Curry County Sheriff’s Office and cooperation between state and local agencies.