ELKHART – The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office hosted a retirement on Tuesday for Elkhart County Deputy Chief Coroner John White.

Having served in the coroner’s office for 22 years, White’s last day will be Thursday.

“I’m honored to have been able to serve 22 years,” he said. “It always sounds weird to say this, but I really enjoyed serving the community, helping families through a time of unimaginable stress. I enjoyed learning to determine cause and manners of death. I’ve been trying to think recently about the number of cases I’ve worked on. I guess in 22 years I’ve probably worked on over 2,500 death investigations.

White described his next chapter after retirement.

“I have so many projects that have been on hold for two or three years. For a while I will have no trouble keeping busy,” he said. “My wife is going to retire later, and then we’ll be taking trips while we’re still healthy.”

White offered some advice for those wishing to enter the coroning profession.

“The need will always be there – just like birth, everyone dies and (in) around 60% of death cases there is an investigation just to make sure it was proper natural causes,” did he declare. “There will never be a lack of work.”

White spoke of a memorable and stressful day at work.

“Probably the most stressful day of my career in this career, and I can’t even tell you what year it was now, I had eight people killed at once on the [Indiana] Toll road,” he said. “This was shortly after the two young girls were misidentified in Gas City, Indiana on Interstate 69. There were two female students who were on a Taylor University transport bus – one a survived and one died at the scene.

“They mixed their identity. The girl who survived was in a coma for about 10 days,” he said. “When she came out of the coma, she was very confused why they were calling her after that other girl. It was on my mind. Five of the eight people who died instantly on the toll road were Amish. They don’t have IDs, they don’t believe in photos, so I had five people I really didn’t know who they were. Making sure we identified them correctly was paramount on my mind that day- there because I didn’t want to be embarrassed like what happened in Marion, Indiana.

White revealed one of the hardest parts of the job: the teenagers.

“I would see someone 15, 16, 17,” he said. “They had their whole life ahead of them, and because of one bad decision, an accident happens and that life is gone, and all that promise is gone.”

Joseph Weiser is a photojournalist for The Goshen News. Contact him at [email protected] or at 574-538-2349 or (cell) 574-202-8479.

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