Calcasieu Coroner’s Office damaged during storm

Updated: Sep. 2, 2020 at 1:47 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Calcasieu Coroners Office sustained heavy damage after Hurricane Laura. The roof above the autopsy room had to be tarped, bodies are currently being stored in refrigerated trailers, and their one car that was used to transport bodies to the office from across the parish has been completely destroyed.

Dr. Terry Welke, the Calcasieu Coroner, says the Parish has left their office to fend for themselves the last few days after Hurricane Laura destroyed most of their building, along with Southwest Louisiana, “I’ve been doing this business for over 30 years down here. This is by far the busiest I have ever been.”

Investigators have had to bring in their own food and water...Charlie Hunter, the lead investigator at the Coroners Office, has been cooking on his grill he brought to the office to make sure everyone is fed.

Other Parish coroners offices, like Jefferson and Vermillion, have been helping them, but with deaths as a result of the hurricane, as well as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, resources are stretched thin.

Charlie Hunter says, “Yesterday, we were in double-digit deaths for the third day in a row”

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury has been promising a new Coroner’s Office for the last 5 years...bodies are now being kept in refrigerated trucks outside the office.

“I wish they could see how dilapidated this building really is,” said Dr. Welke. “I was doing autopsies in between rain coming down through the ceiling. Had it not been for the generators we wouldn’t be able to do this at all.”

Dr. Welke says he doesn’t know when, or if, they will ever be able to recover from this.

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