More people killed themselves in 2009 in King County than in any year since 2000, but there were fewer homicides and traffic fatalities, according to a report released Dec. 29 by the King County Medical Examiner.
Of the estimated 12,967 deaths in King County, 253 were suicides, mostly by gun.
Of the 146 firearm deaths in 2009, 41 were homicides and 100 were suicides. One firearm death was classified as an accident in 2009.
The ME's staff performed autopsies approximately 10 percent (1,226) of the time. The office assumed jurisdiction in 2,190 deaths, which included 989 natural deaths, 632 accidental deaths, 253 suicides, 141 traffic deaths, 63 homicides and 59 undetermined causes.
The report is the medical examiner's most recent data. All the previous year's cases must be closed before the data can be amassed. That explains the lag time between the year end and the date the report is published.
Budget cuts have also affected the medical examiner staff.
Since 2009, the medical examiner has eliminated 4.5 full-time death investigators, along with a part-time anthropologist. Staff say cuts have resulted in fewer investigators on the night shift and longer response times.
The medical examiner's 2010 report is expected to be released in October 2011.