VALDOSTA -- Valdosta hosted its first Georgia Coroners Association meeting at the Holiday Inn on North St. Augustine Road.

The two-day event began Friday with an official welcome by Valdosta Mayor Jimmy Rainwater.

Speakers during the day included representatives from agencies that work closely with coroners, including a Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team from the Georgia State Patrol, Valdosta; Janet Oliva, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Child Abuse Investigative Support Center; and D'Anna Libner, director, DFCS Special Investigation Unit.

Houston County Coroner Daniel Galpin, president of the state association, said that Friday's speakers addressed issues that are problematic to the profession.

"(Today) is just our regular fall business meeting, where we'll be discussing the regular business of the coroner association," Galpin said. "Things like new legislation that's coming out that affects coroners -- anything that affects us as an organization."

Charles Exum, Lowndes County coroner, wasn't sure of the exact number of people attending the meeting, but expected there might be up to 50 attending.

Exum has been trying to get the meeting held in Valdosta for some time. In the past, the regional meetings have been held at Dalton, Warner Robins and Macon.

"What they do is they ask for invitations, so I extended an invitation to meet in Valdosta this year," Exum said. "Next year, we're going back to Warner Robins."

An area that was addressed by speakers on Friday concerned the death of children. Last year, about 1,700 children died in Georgia by various causes, said Sharon Anderson, deputy, Catoosa County.

"Child abuse has been a big project with coroners for several years now," Galpin said. "We want to identify the other children at risk. We already know we've lost one, so now we want to make sure that the other children in the family are going to be safe."

Galpin said he arrived in Valdosta Thursday night and was pleased by the reception and warm hospitality he and other coroners received from the community.

"We're always glad to have industry and people come into Valdosta and Lowndes County," Rainwater said. "We know we're a regional city, and for the Coroners Association of the state of Georgia to come and bring people into our community is a plus. We're excited about having them, and we hope that they will come back."

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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