Morgue Workers Keep Doors Open Around The Clock

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Dealing with death is an everyday part of life, not only for families of our departed loved ones but for the professionals whose job it is to investigate the cause and manner of death.

The work goes on 24-hours-a-day, and the lights never go out at the Franklin County morgue.

10TV spent an overnight shift at the morgue to see what it was like for the dedicated people that work there.

The coroner’s office handles around 1,100 deaths per year. Most of them are sudden and unexpected.

They all end up in the morgue's cooler.

On a recent overnight shift, forensic technicians Kelly Sandberg and Amanda Alvarez work as a team.

They explain that the bags and the bodies get tags for identification.

A big part of their job is admitting bodies into the morgue, and establishing a case file for each one.

The two document physical characteristics, such as height, weight, hair and eye color, along with the type and condition of clothing and any possessions.

All valuables are bagged and secured for family members. In suspected drug cases, drugs found on the body are also secured as evidence.

All information is noted on a special bar code file.

Along with photographic evidence of scars or any clue that may help investigators solve a crime or determine a cause of death, they take fingerprints and x-rays to determine hidden injuries.

"I do describe it as a puzzle,” said Alvarez.

The two are always on standby and ready for any condition.

"We even have boots that require us to go out in water,” added Alvarez.

Both admit that there is no modesty in death, but they have a job to do.

They say the work doesn’t bother them, although they understand why it would some people.

“I know it seems cold and morbid, but I sleep fine,” added Alvarez.

"I really think I respect life more. I think you enjoy it a little bit more because you can see how quickly it can go,” said Sandberg.

"Forensic technicians are at the facility around the clock, processing bodies that come in, cataloguing information and basically getting everything prepared for autopsies, so the pathologists can get right to work when they come in.

Every weekday morning, each patient, as they call them, is summarized and discussed between the doctors and staff.

Coroner Jan Gorniak says the main goal is to balance the investigative process with treating every person with dignity and respect, and limiting any more grief to surviving family members in the continual pursuit of justice for the dead.

The coroner tells 10TV of the 10,000 deaths in Franklin County every year, about 3,000 are reported to her office. Her staff performs dozens of autopsies every year for other counties as well.