Austin Eubanks, who survived the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, was found dead Saturday at age 37. Wochit
Columbine High School shooting survivor Austin Eubanks, who became an outspoken advocate for addiction recovery, died of an accidental heroin overdose, the Routt County Coroner’s Office confirmed Friday.
“Very sad,” coroner Robert Ryg told USA TODAY. “We were hoping for some other medical reason but with his history we always knew that was a possibility.”
Eubanks, 37, was found dead in May at his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, during a welfare check after he failed to answer his phone.
During the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999, Eubanks, then 17, was shot twice – in the hand and the knee – and watched his best friend Corey DePooter die, as they took refuge under a table in their school’s library.
DePooter was one of the 13 people – 12 students and one teacher – killed in what was the worst school shooting in U.S. history at the time.
While Eubanks’ physical pain subsided after a few days, he was prescribed medications and continued to take them.
He struggled with addiction throughout his 20s and went through multiple treatment centers.
After spending 14 months in rehab, Eubanks began helping other people struggling with the same challenges. For the past several years, Eubanks worked as a speaker on addiction issues. He cut his ponytail and started wearing a waistcoat. His dress shirts covered up the colorful tattoos along his arms.
He served as chief operations officer for Foundry Treatment Center and traveled the country speaking about his personal journey, as well as strategies for addressing the opioid crisis, according to his website.
Eubanks would tell audiences that his unwillingness to feel his emotional pain led to his opiate addiction. That same type of emotional pain, he said, is driving an addiction pandemic in America.
Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face,” according to a statement from his family obtained by KMGH-TV.
“Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work,” the statement read. “As you can imagine, we are beyond shocked and saddened and request that our privacy is respected at this time.”
Contributing: Trevor Hughes and N’dea Yancey-Bragg
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