GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – Dennis Fowler is a coroner, and with a team of four investigators, they have a singular job with many complex dimensions.
They must account for every death that happens in Cherokee County.
“It’s not just pronouncing someone dead,” Fowler tells us. “A lot of boots on the ground. We do a lot of work inside and outside. We’re in hospitals. We’re in homes. We’re in businesses when things occur in businesses. Accidental deaths, home deaths, homicides, suicides, we’re working them all.”
Certainly, the most difficult and emotional part of the job for coroners is to notify families after a death.
“It takes a person with heart. Someone that can hold a hand at a worst time a person is experiencing,” Fowler explained. “Because you know when you go to a home and you stop at the house and you’re walking up the driveway, you’re walking toward the door… You know when you ring the bell… The person on the other side of the door, you’re going to change their life forever.”
Fowler said one case led him to cross a line he usually doesn’t, and he let his frustration show. It was in July 2021 after three people died in a traffic crash on Interstate 85.
It happened in part of the interstate widening project, in a construction zone, in what were known as traffic chutes.
“I was sitting in my office writing the news release for you guys [media] after we lost three people on the interstate in those ‘death traps’ as I called them. I was very upset, I was mad because I had talked to families from those three decedents, and they were devastated,” he said.
Two days later, the South Carolina Department of Transportation announced it directed its contractor on the Cherokee County widening to remove the chutes.
“I’m glad they’re gone,” Fowler said. “I think it’s a safer world, and we’ve haven’t been back out there since the chutes were gone.”
Fowler said patience is another major requirement to be a successful coroner. He said it can take six to eight months to solve a case.