Austin Eubanks, Columbine Shooting Survivor and Public Speaker, Died of Apparent Overdose
Eubanks was a 17-year-old student at Columbine High when two fellow students entered the school and began shooting people in a reign of terror that left 13 dead
Austin Eubanks, who was previously candid about his addiction to opioids after surviving the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, died of an apparent accidental drug overdose.
Eubanks, 37, was found in his Steamboat Springs, Colorado home about 6:30 a.m. Saturday by his father, who called 911, Steamboat Springs Commander Jerry Stabile tells PEOPLE.
An autopsy was being conducted Monday, but toxicology results were not yet available, Stabile said Monday.
The results should be available in two to four weeks, Routt County Coroner Robert Ryg tells PEOPLE.
When asked if the cause of death was an unintentional drug overdose, Stabile said, “There’s indications, yes,” but stated that a final determination would be made once the investigation and autopsy are complete. “No foul play is suspected,” he said.
His family confirmed his overdose death, saying in a statement, Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.”
Stabile said a return to drug use can be a sadly common reality. About 40 to 60 percent of those treated for substance use disorders suffer a relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It’s a terrible disease,” Stabile said. “It appears that it’s a lifelong endeavor to turn the corner on it. This is a prime example of that.”
Eubanks was a 17-year-old student at Columbine when two fellow students entered the school and began shooting people in a reign of terror which left 13 people dead and 23 wounded. The shooters also took their own lives.
Eubanks was shot in the hand and knee and witnessed the killing of his best friend, Corey DePooter, as they hid under a table in the library, he told PEOPLE in a 2016 interview.
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He was given painkillers at the hospital, which he said quickly led to an addiction to opioids and other drugs. “I learned I didn’t have to process emotion. I could keep myself numb if I was on substances,” he admitted.
He struggled with dependence for many years and attempted rehab on several occasions, relapsing each time until finding long-term sobriety in 2011 through therapy, in-patient treatment and accountability partners, he said.
In 2016, he said he had been clean for five years and was on a mission to help and inspire others, speaking widely as a motivational speaker about his own battle and recovery. He worked at Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs from 2015 to 2019, serving as Chief Operations Officer, Aubrey Gordon, a spokeswoman for the center and Eubanks’ family, tells PEOPLE.
In his 2016 PEOPLE interview, Eubanks said he was divorced and had two children, Caden and Landon, then 10 and 6 years old, and was engaged to be married again. However, that marriage did not take place, Gordon says.
No funeral arrangements have been announced as of yet.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.