Fewer county deaths recorded over the prior year; Accidental and suicide deaths the highest in 40 years

Coroner Larry DeGraw and Deputy Coroner Erin Ivey presented a year-end recap of activity in the Coroner's office during Tuesday's Fremont County Commissioner's meeting. Wyotoday.com photo via Zoom livestream

Deaths in Fremont County were 28 less in 2021 than in 2020 according to a year end report by the Coroner’s Office. In a presentation to the Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday, Coroner Larry DeGraw and Deputy Coroner Erin Ivey said there were 388 recorded deaths in 2021, compared with 416 in 2020. Of those cases, 45.3 percent were cases investigated by the coroner, or 176 deaths. That was four more than in 2020.

Of the coroner cases, 36 percent or 63 deaths were non natural in nature, that is an accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined. Of those:

• Accidental deaths totaled 44 (twice the national average for our population and is the high number for a single year going back 40 years.

• Suicides totaled 17, three less than last year. This is about three times the national average for our population. 

• Homicides totaled two, three less than last year.

• Motor Vehicle crash deaths totaled 16, the same number as those who were killed in vehicles in 2020. However, ten, or 67 percent of those deaths, involved alcohol and/or drug use by the deceased. This is about three times the national average for our population. 

DeGraw and Ivie said there are currently five cases pending toxicology/autopsy reports from 2021, and the results of those cases will change the above totals. 

Breaking down those numbers even further, the leading cause of accidental deaths last year were:

1.) Motor vehicle crashes, (16),

2.) Drug and/or alcohol toxicity (15),

3.) Falls (7),

4.) Fire trauma ((3),

5.) Accidental drowning (2), and

6.) Hypothermia )1)

The Coroner’s report noted that suicide numbers have remained high after lows of five in the years 2018 and 2000. The report indicated 2020 saw the highest year total at 20 from the last 40 years. Previous highs according to the report were recorded at 19 in 2012, and 18 each in 1985 and 2006.