Vinson didn’t have the television on, so he hadn’t yet heard about the plane crash in Lexington that left 49 of 50 passengers on Flight 5191 dead. In an instant, he was being told he had half an hour to pack his bags and get on the road so he could help recover the bodies with other members of the Kentucky Mass Fatality Response Team.
Vinson became a member of the team in 2004. The team was formed in order to assist coroners on jobs where there are too many deaths for the local resources to handle. The team is divided into 14 regions, and Vinson is his region’s leader.
Vinson, 34, has been a coroner for 14 years and his father is John, the head Trigg County coroner. A heartbreaking catastrophe like the Lexington crash is a rarity, though, and it’s a lot for even the most experienced coroners to handle something with a big enough impact to make headlines around the country.
But this certainly wasn’t Vinson’s first time dealing with a national tragedy. Not even a year ago, he was called by Kentucky’s state forensic anthropologist, Emily Craig, to assist in recovering bodies in New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Along with mass fatality teams from around the country, Vinson helped pull bodies from homes, hospitals and streets. Dealing with that much death can certainly be hard to cope with emotionally, but Vinson said that while it was all happening, he could ignore the pain because everyone was so busy and focused on the task at hand. He said that after something that awful, it can take a week or even a month for it to register.
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