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KSAT gets inside look at Bexar medical examiner's office

Office investigated 11k deaths in 2013

SAN ANTONIO – As the population surges, it puts a strain in an unexpected place -- the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office.

Each year, there are between 14,000 and 15,000 deaths in the county and in 2013, the office investigated 11,000 of those deaths.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Randall Frost leads a team of seven medical examiners.

"We're interested solely in looking back and determining what happened to make this person sick or injured and cause their death," Frost said.

The first to get notified of a death are the investigators. They ask questions and often go to the death scene, including crimes and car wrecks. 

"The investigators are here 24/7/365," Frost said.

A team of toxicologists in the lab run tests on specimen taken from the bodies. The job of this team has grown tougher in recent years with a surge in prescription drug overdoses.

"Those are much more difficult for the lab to work up, and they're much more difficult for the medical examiner to sort of put together," Frost said.

Frost said the medical examiners spend their mornings in the morgue.

"Forensic pathology and autopsies in general are very low-tech procedures. We need our instruments and a good set of eyes and a brain, and that's how we do most of our work," Frost said.

One high-tech tool the team utilizes is an X-ray machine that can scan a body in less than a minute. It's primarily used to find bullets in shooting victims.

Murder victims account for 10 percent of the office's caseload.

An autopsy report typically takes eight to 12 weeks to complete and doesn't always provide a clear answer.

"There are a lot of things that happen in the body to cause death that don't leave any marks on the body at autopsy," Frost said.