Orange County Medical Examiner discusses working during Pulse tragedy
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua Stephany said on Thursday that he is very proud of how efficiently his office worked during the Pulse tragedy.
Dr. Stephany said his office was prepared, adding the county's newer building was more than adequate to hold all of the victims.
"I tell my staff, especially the ones that were there, you can't un-see what you've seen, and we are experienced. This was a horrible, horrible tragedy, horrible scene, but that's what we are trained for," said Dr. Stephany. "Someone told me one of the services was actually Thursday. To start services, you know four days after an event like that, to me that kind of brought some inter piece to myself to say, you know we are kind of the silent people. Until this incident no one really knew what we did or cared about us."
Stephany said he still remembers images of drinks on bar tops and the sight of music videos playing on television screens inside the club.
"If you are at a bar and you are in a crowded place and you know something may trigger. You see like a glass half empty, or someone paying the bill or something like that and you may have a flashback. Just to that imagery. I'm not saying I'm going to freak out about it, but just you know the image might just flash in your mind," said Dr. Stephany.
Stephany also said he conducted Omar Mateen's autopsy, removing him first from the club.
"That Sunday night. I was there. I was finally allowed on the scene. That individual was the first person out because law enforcement has a specific interest in him. They want to definitely identify him. Make sure there were no weapons on him. So he was the first one we moved," said Dr. Stephany.
Stephany said it was his decision to keep Mateen's body in a separate building from the victims, adding it's common practice to keep victim's and their killers apart.
"I would definitely do it again. Honestly it was a split second decision. I really didn't think anything of it," said Dr. Stephany.
He also said that on the morning of June 12th, he was briefed on what to expect.
"On the way in, I was talking to my bosses, getting phone calls, and they're talking it could be maybe 30, 40, 50, 60. They don't know. The numbers keep changing," said Dr. Stephany.
Stephany said he told city leaders to set up a phone number for victim's families to call, anticipating the influx in call to his office.
He said that in recent weeks, his office has gotten a lot of praise from the public about their hard work. Dr. Stephany said seeing memorials for the victim's helps him realize the magnitude of the incident.
"I saw the names. I saw all of the personal notes and then I was thinking to myself, me and my staff, other than the families are the last people to see these individuals."
Stephany said he plans to speak with other medical examiners' offices about the efficiency of his office during the mass shooting.
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