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February 18, 2014
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Summit County Coroner reports more deaths in 2013 than 10-year average

Summit County experienced more deaths in 2013 than in any other year in the last decade, according to the coroner’s report released this month.

In total, 76 people died in Summit County in 2013, which was up from 61 in 2012. The total also was higher than Summit’s 10-year average of 56.2 deaths annually, according to the report.

Of those 76 deaths, 58 were men and 18 were women, the report stated. The average age at death for men was 53, compared with 65 for women.

Summit County Coroner Dr. Tim Keeling said Tuesday, Feb. 18, that although the number of deaths for 2013 was significantly higher than the norm, he could not identify any trends given Summit County’s small data pool.

However, Keeling did note that the sharp increase in the 2013 death rate could be attributed to an increase in death reports from Bristlecone Hospice. Last year, Bristlecone reported 22 deaths, compared with just six in 2012.

Although it’s not the official position of the coroner’s office, the spike at Bristlecone could be attributed to people making conscious decisions to live out their lives in Summit County, Keeling said, rather than leaving the community to seek health care services on the Front Range or moving in with family members out of state.

Also on the rise in Summit County last year was the number of suicides, which increased from six in 2012 to eight in 2013. Of those, seven were men and one was a woman.

Self-inflicted gunshot wounds accounted for seven of the eight suicides, the report stated. One man strangled himself.

Two of the eight suicides occurred during the final days of the year, making 2013 the worst year for suicides in Summit County since 1993. Suicides have historically accounted for about 10 percent of all annual deaths in Summit County, Keeling said. That trend remained unchanged in 2013.

On a slightly brighter note, accidental deaths in Summit County decreased dramatically in 2013 across all categories, Keeling said, notably in regards to snow sports accidents and motor vehicle crashes.

In 2013, Summit County’s ski resorts reported four deaths, down from nine in 2012. Of the four reported deaths, two victims were wearing helmets.

The number of deaths due to motor vehicle crashes dropped from three in 2012 to one in 2013. Alcohol was not suspected in the cause of the crash, but the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, according to the report.

Keeling attributed the sharp decrease in accidental deaths to the work of Summit County’s teachers educating youngsters about seatbelt usage, the law enforcement community cracking down on reckless behavior, such as driving under the influence, and the commitment of the district attorney’s office to prosecute offenders.

“Perhaps the most impressive statistic is the drop in accidental deaths,” Keeling said. “I believe everyone in Summit County played a part in the decrease, but it is the educators, law enforcement and the D.A. that deserve the greatest credit.”

In 2013, Summit County’s ski resorts reported four deaths, down from nine in 2012.


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The Summit Daily Updated Feb 18, 2014 08:30PM Published Feb 18, 2014 08:02PM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.