Columbine school shooting survivor and champion against opioid addiction Austin Eubanks found dead at age 37
In a statement his family released, they said Eubanks 'lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face'
Austin Eubanks, one of the survivors of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 where 12 students, including Eubanks' best friend, were murdered, was found dead at his residence in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He was 37.
According to CNN, Routt County, Colorado, coroner Robert Ryg said that Eubanks was found dead on Saturday, May 18, during a welfare check after he did not answer his phone. No foul play is suspected and his autopsy is scheduled for Monday, May 20.
Eubanks' story is one of incredible tragedy, struggle, eventual recovery, inspiration, and now, unfortunately, tragedy again. He was just 17 when he had to watch his best friend Corey DePooter die in front of him, with shooter Dylan Klebold shooting and killing DePooter as they both hid under the same table.
At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in US history, and even though Eubanks was shot in his hand and knee, he survived. However, the experience saw him develop a crippling opioid addiction that would haunt him for a good part of his twenties.
As his fight against addiction continued, he was admitted into multiple residential treatment centers, and more than a decade after he had developed the habit, he finally managed to accomplish long-term sobriety at the age of 29.
Speaking about his addiction to CNN last year, he said, "Obviously, after that [the shooting], my life took a pretty big detour. As a result of my injuries, I was pretty significantly medicated about 45 minutes after being shot. I remember immediately being drawn to that feeling because it took the emotion away."
Eubanks subsequently became a motivational public speaker and dedicated time to speaking about addiction and recovery. Over the years, he delved into various nonprofits and organizations that reached out to and helped those who were in situations not all too different from what he had experienced himself.
He was the chief operations officer for Foundry Treatment Center, a substance abuse center in Steamboat Springs, and a member of nonprofit boards and was the operations director of NorthStar Transitions, a drug and alcohol rehab center in Boulder, Colorado. He was also the executive director of Quiet River Transitional Recovery Community in Denver, an organization that focuses on post-treatment lifestyle reintegration.
Just at the start of this month, on May 2, Eubanks turned up to speak at the 2019 Connecticut Opioid and Prescription Drug Prevention Conference, with his website indicating that he had been booked to speak at the Idaho Dental Association, Iowa State Hospital Association, and Phoenix Luncheon in June.
In a statement his family released on May said Eubanks "lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face, adding, "Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work."