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Jun 16, 2016 2:57 PM

Orlando medical examiner has NH ties, graduated from Winnacunnet High and UNH

CNN and staff reports

(CNN) -- The chief medical examiner in Orlando, Florida, has New Hampshire ties as a 1992 graduate of Winnacunnet High School in Hampton.

Dr. Joshua D. Stephany went on to major in medical laboratory science at the University of New Hampshire and graduated after a six-month internship at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

Stephany says nothing in his 10-year career prepared him for what he saw inside the Pulse nightclub on Sunday morning after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

"Pictures don't do justice. It wasn't until I got to the scene and learned the body count was still growing and saw the sheer numbers of law enforcement and officials that I knew the scope of what we were dealing with." Stephany told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Stephany and his staff are not first responders. They're normally allowed on site a few hours after the police, once the location is deemed safe.

"Our role is recovery, but before we retrieve the bodies, we have to document," Stephany explained. "We have to document where the bodies are, their positions, what rooms they are in, anything we can do to help us determine cause and manner of death."

Just as important to Stephany is gathering information that can help identify the bodies quickly. Not for the police, but for the families.

"For every victim, there are five to six family members who will start calling immediately," he said. "They start calling anyone they can, and we want to set up one number and get all the information we can and give it to them."

To do that, Stephany and his team look for watches, jewelry, tattoos, hair color, eye color and of course personal identification such as driver's licenses. On many of the victims, that was easily available. By midnight Sunday, all but one of the victims had been identified and ferried to the main morgue. But not the shooter, Omar Mateen. Out of respect to the families and the victims, his body was treated differently.

"The shooter was transported by himself," Stephany explained. "I autopsied him personally, away from the victims. We felt it was best ethically, morally, for the families to separate the bodies, so they won't have the picture in their minds of the shooter next to their loved one. It just didn't seem like the right thing to do."

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