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Fresno County’s Chief Forensic Pathologist Dies as Car Plunges Down Mountainside



Dr, Venu Gopal performed approximately 350 autopsies and 500 external exams during 2020 alone. (Fresno County SO)
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Dr. Venu Gopal, the hard-working and friend-to-all chief forensic pathologist for the Fresno County Sheriff’s-Coroner’s Office, died in a single-car auto accident Saturday morning on the Highway 168 “four lane” east of Beal Fire Road in Auberry.

Dr. Venu Gopal was an amazing man who performed incredible work during his 30-year career at the Coroner’s Office.” — Fresno County Sheriff’s-Coroner’s Office statement  

“For an unknown reason, the driver was unable to maintain control of the (2012) Nissan and allowed it to veer to the left off the roadway,” stated a California Highway Patrol report. “The vehicle veered off the shoulder and careened approximately 200 feet down the mountainside. The driver was not wearing a seatbelt and sustained critical injuries. … The investigation is ongoing.”

The report also stated that neither alcohol nor drugs were suspected to be a factor in the crash.

Moved to US From India

Gopal, 69, began his career with Fresno County in 1992. After graduating from Bangalore Medical University in India, he came to the United States in the 1980s and completed his residency in pathology at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on New York’s Staten Island.

“The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and our community have suffered an enormous loss,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “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 (him) and his family.”

Gopal taught anatomy, physiology, and forensic aspects of an autopsy to paramedics, nurses, anatomy students, criminology students, and medical assistants. He periodically hosted emergency room doctors during their residencies for forensic training requirements.

“Dr. Gopal’s work ethic is unmatched. It was not uncommon for him to work seven days a week for months at a time,” the sheriff’s office said.

Dr. Venu Gopal

Dr. Venu Gopal displays his 2020 Employee of the Year award while alongside Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. (Fresno County SO)

2020 Employee of the Year

In 2020, the sheriff’s office honored Gopal as its Employee of the Year. During the height of the pandemic, he was the lone forensic pathologist because the office’s other forensic pathologist had retired. He performed approximately 350 autopsies and 500 external exams during 2020.

Gopal, a Clovis resident, also was active in his temple.

He is survived by his wife and two children.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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