Public gets its first look inside new Travis County Medical Examiner's Office

Hundreds of people got a sneak peek inside the new Travis County Medical Examiner's Office today. It's the only time the public will be allowed to get a look inside the more than 52,000 square foot facility.

AUSTIN - The general public got a sneak peek inside the new Travis County Medical Examiner's Office Wednesday. The nearly completed, two-story structure is located at 7723 Springdale Road in East Austin.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held before staffers conducted the tours.

The nearly 53,000-square-foot facility will house 41 forensic specialists, including investigator Jennifer Giesecke.

"It's an enormous, enormous difference," Giesecke said as she described the difference between the old and new medical examiner's offices. "It will speed up the process enormously."

She explained why the new facility is such a big deal.

"Where we are right now we have four desks, which means we come in and sometimes if the last shift is still working on their case, I don't have a work station to work at I might have to stand there for 30 to 45 minutes," Giesecke said.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Keith Pinckard was also excited about the new facility.

"It really is unbelievable," Dr. Pinckard said.

He gave us a partial tour.

"In our current facility, we have two autopsy stations, meaning 2 autopsies can take place at the same time and that is sort of a log jam," Dr. Pinckard explained. "You can start new ones until those are complete. This is our main room right here and we have six stations."

There are a total of nine autopsy stations.

The new facility also includes a CT scan, which could replace an autopsy. There are only 10 of these in medical examiners offices across North America.

"What it can do that the autopsy is more limited is a lot of the boney injuries -- skeletal fractures, injuries to the bone," said Dr. Sam Andrews, who is also the deputy medical examiner. 

The new facility also includes a larger morgue, bigger toxicology labs, a waiting room just for law enforcement and private waiting rooms for families.

The new facility is three-and-a-half times the size of the current facility

Meantime, staffers like Giesecke are counting the hours until its time to move in. There is no set move-in date at this time.

The Travis County Medical Examiner's Office serves 43 counties and averages about 1800 cases a year.

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