Top Fresno Co. Sheriff's Dept. official killed in solo-car crash in Fresno County

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Sunday, August 28, 2022
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A 69-year-old man is dead after CHP officers say his car careened down the mountainside off Highway 168 in the Auberry area Saturday morning.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dr. Venu Gopal, Fresno County's Chief Forensic Pathologist, died Saturday morning when his car careened down the mountainside off the four-lane section of Highway 168 in the Auberry area.

The investigation began after Gopal's family called to report their father never made it to work.

Investigators pinged his phone and traced it to the 168 near Beal Fire Road.

Officers with the California Highway Patrol say it appears the 69-year-old Gopal was heading west on the highway when, for an unknown reason, he lost control of his Nissan sedan, allowing it to veer to the left and off the roadway. He was declared dead at the scene.

The CHP says that Gopal was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Gopal worked for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, which also handles Coroner's duties.

In a statement, the agency said, "The Fresno County Sheriff's Office and our community has suffered an enormous loss. Dr. Venu Gopal was an amazing man who performed incredible work during his 30 year career at the Coroner's Office. He helped provide much needed answers to grieving families and also contributed to delivering justice to loved ones in mourning. We wish to thank Dr. Gopal for his service. He will be greatly missed. God Bless he and his family." -

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office added that it was not uncommon for him to work seven days a week for months at a time.

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, he was the Coroner Office's lone forensic pathologist after a colleague retired. That year, he conducted 350 autopsies and 500 exams. His efforts led him to be honored as the Sheriff's Office Employee of the Year.

Gopal graduated from Bangalore Medical University in the state of Karnataka, India, and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He started working for Fresno County in 1992.

Outside of work, Gopal was extremely active in his temple.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

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