Garland Master Coroner

Calloway County Coroner Ricky Garland, right, receives his plaque for achieving Master Coroner status from Kentucky Coroner's Association President Forrest Hicks.

MURRAY — The job of coroner is anything but glamorous.

This is a person that typically arrives at a scene where a death has occurred well after the majority of the action has happened. For example, he arrives after firefighters and rescue personnel have attempted to extract a victim from the tangled wreckage of a vehicle that has been involved in a major wreck. Most of the emergency personnel who remain are there for either traffic control or to complete the process of packing their equipment back on their vehicles ahead of returning to their quarters.

However, most of the time, a coroner’s job is determining the cause of death of more routine matters, not traumas. It has been Ricky Garland’s job for 22 years with the Calloway County Coroner’s Office and one he takes very seriously.

Now, he has been recognized for his service, achieving the rank of master coroner by the Kentucky Coroner’s Association, and it is believed that he is the first Calloway coroner to reach this level.

“I think it shows our dedication to the citizens of the county. To put in that number of years to the families of the county, it’s an honor,” said Garland, who is currently the county’s coroner. He served 18 years as a deputy coroner before being elevated to the main coroner’s position in 2018 upon the retirement of former Coroner Rick Harris. 

“It’s basically that you have to be in the coroner’s office for at least 12 years and you have to have assisted or directly handled at least 300 cases. Now, basically, we all have the same training and we have continuing education every year, so that’s not necessarily part of it.”

Garland was notified of his master’s status during this year’s Kentucky Coroner’s Association Conference in Louisville. 

“We had quite a showing from western Kentucky and there was a lot of support up there,” Garland said of how at least one other representative from that portion of the commonwealth also was recognized as having achieved master’s status. “He was actually a deputy but he received it as well.

“Each level is a little different. You have basic, which is where deputies go for their basic training. Then, you have advanced and you have to have had an x number of years in it to qualify for that; I want to say it’s eight. Then, you have master.

“And it’s not just accidents and other traumas that we handle. We do handle normal, everyday natural causes of people who have died at home or not in hospice care.”

While they do not count for the master rank, Garland also said coroners are asked to assess deaths to people who live in Calloway County but who died elsewhere. That requires team work between the affected counties, he said.

“Those are not typically ‘coroner calls,’ but we are involved in those as well,” he said.