FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE)- Local leaders are weighing in on the death of Fresno County’s top forensic official Dr. Venu Gopal.
Dr. Gopal was the Chief Forensic Pathologist and was killed over the weekend after officials say his car went over a cliff along Highway 168 in an area known as the 4-lane, landing 200 feet down the mountainside.
Dr. Gopal was getting to retire this October, after those who knew him said he made such a huge mark in the community and a lasting legacy.
Gopal’s death has left a void at the coroner’s office and the medical community, which he has been a part of for 30 years.
“We’re gonna have to do some scrambling in the DA’s office to figure out, because still have a lot of open cases, with Dr. Gopal as our expert and the person who we need,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
Sheriff-elect John Zanoni said Gopal would often work seven days a week, a testament to his work ethic and the consummate professional he was.
“There are 365 days a year, to complete 350 autopsies in one year, that’s a remarkable task,” said Zanoni.
Aside from his medical practice, Gopal also spent countless hours testifying for hundreds of high-profile cases, including being an expert witness for a racially driven shooting that killed three people in Fresno back in 2020.
Dr. Gopal was getting ready to wrap up his accomplished career and retire this October.
“It was just a gut punch you know, I had talked to Dr. Gopal just a few weeks ago and he was happy about retiring and excited,” says Smittcamp.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said it was already in the process of hiring someone to take over Dr. Gopal’s position since he was getting ready for retirement.
“We had been in the process of recruiting another forensic pathologist to come in and take his place, by no means replace him, but to take his place and pick up the workload,” said Zanoni.
Dr. Gopal leaves behind a wife and two children.