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Causes of Clark County’s 2019 deaths ranged from heat to drugs

As the population continues to climb in Clark County, so does the number of deaths.

Last year, 18,407 people died in the county — the most deaths since at least 2001, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

From 2001 to 2019, the county’s population grew from 1.5 million to 2.3 million, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

The Clark County coroner’s office investigated 6,487 of the deaths reported to the Health District in 2019.

Coroner John Fudenberg was not available this week for an interview about last year’s cases, but he previously has said that the agency’s involvement in death investigations can range from a full autopsy to a telephone consultation with a doctor following a hospital death.

His office probes all suicides, deaths by violence or criminal means, and any unattended deaths in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, Mesquite or Laughlin.

The coroner’s office also is responsible for investigating deaths in Nye County, which does not have its own coroner. And occasionally, the agency takes cases from other nearby counties.

Six remain unidentified

In 2019, some were killed by the blistering desert heat or chronic alcoholism. Gun violence, drug addiction and opioid misuse continued to plague Clark County.

Those who died in the county were from all reaches of the United States, including from Florida and Connecticut in the East and from Hawaii and Washington in the West. One man was from Port Macquarie, a town on the western coast of Australia.

A Las Vegas woman died in May at the age of 109. The youngest was a day old.

At least six remain unidentified, known only by nicknames given by the coroner’s office, such as “John Stocker Doe” and “Jane Desert Doe.”

One man, from Monclova, Mexico, died in a Fourth of July fireworks accident, while another man died in an accidental fall from a scissor lift.

Kyna Marie Pamela DeShane (GoFundMe)
Kyna Marie Pamela DeShane (GoFundMe)

A 1-year-old girl from Ely was mauled to death by a family friend’s Rottweiler in April. It was the only fatal dog mauling in the county last year, according to the coroner’s office.

The girl, Kyna Marie Pamela DeShane, was at her grandparents’ home in Henderson when she was attacked by the 4-year-old dog.

It was later euthanized at the owner’s request, county officials previously said.

How they died

A death is ruled one of five ways by the Clark County coroner’s office: accident, natural, homicide, suicide or undetermined. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reviewed the 3,840 deaths in the county last year that warranted autopsies by the office.

Half of those people died of natural causes. Heart disease, for example, was a factor in at least 1,603 of the deaths. Diabetes was a primary factor in at least 518 deaths and obesity in 174 deaths.

Accidental deaths came second, and 70 were caused by environmental heat stress, up from 65 the previous year.

Gun violence killed 326 people — 69 percent of whom died by suicide, the third-leading manner of death last year in the county. However, the number of suicides was down after rising for several years.

Nineteen of 439 people who died by suicide last year were teenagers, and the youngest was a 13-year-old boy.

Half of all suicides last year were the result of a gunshot wound.

Eighty-eight deaths in 2019 were caused by chronic alcoholism and 68 more by combined alcohol and drug intoxication.

Chronic alcoholism also contributed to 132 other deaths last year, while alcohol poisoning killed three people and was a factor in 20 other deaths, according to the data.

Meanwhile, opioids killed or contributed to least 185 deaths, down from 255 in 2018 and 308 the year before.

In 2019, the county saw its most drastic drop in homicides in at least a decade.

The coroner’s office could not determine how or why 41 people died last year.

Fudenberg’s predecessor, Michael Murphy, previously told the Review-Journal that a case becomes undetermined if investigators are unable to medically explain the cause of death or if the case has conflicting manners of death.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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