Austin Eubanks was a survivor of the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. On May 18, 2019, twenty years after that deadly shooting, Eubanks was found dead in his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He was 37 years old. Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Cause of Death Has Not Been Released, but Eubanks’ Family Said He Had ‘Lost the Battle’ with the Disease He Fought to Help Others Face
Eubanks’ body was discovered at his home in Steamboat Springs. Authorities conducted a welfare check after being alerted that Eubanks was not answering his phone. An autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death.
Eubanks’ family issued a statement saying that Eubanks had “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.” The statement continued, “Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work.”
2. Eubanks Struggled with Opioid Addiction After the Columbine Shooting
Eubanks was shot twice – once in the hand, and once in the knee – during the deadly Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999. His best friend, Corey DePootere who died in the shooting. Eubanks watched his best friend die as the two of them huddled together under a table in the school’s library, trying to take refuge from the shooting.
After the attack, Eubanks was prescribed pain medication. He continued to take the medication, and within weeks, the 17 year old had become addicted to the opioids. He later said that he was “drawn” to the drugs because they gave him relief from his emotional pain.
“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,” he said.
3. Eubanks Traveled the Country Speaking About the Opioid Crisis & Telling the Story of His Own Addiction
Eubanks continued to struggle with opioid addiction into his twenties. Eventually, he found a path to recovery, and he decided to dedicate himself to helping others who were in the same position as him. Eubanks traveled across the US telling his story, and talking about the broader problem of addiction in the country.
His website says: “An injured survivor of the Columbine shooting, Austin’s traumatic experience as a teen was the catalyst to his painful journey through addiction. He has since devoted his career to helping those who have turned to substances as a result of trauma. Austin has spoken to millions across the nation regarding his personal journey as well as strategies for addressing the issues of substance abuse that are plaguing the nation.”
Eubanks also spent three years serving as the chief operating officer of the Foundry Steamboat, a rehab center and outpatient addiction treatment facility.
4. He Spoke at an Overdose Prevention Conference on May 2, Weeks Before His Death
Weeks before his death, Eubanks appeared as a speaker at the 2019 Overdose Prevention Conference in Bristol, Connecticut. An attendee at the conference tweeted that hearing him speak had been an “amazing experience” and that his story had been “captivating.”
Eubanks was found dead in his Colorado home on May 18. His family issued a statement saying that he had “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.”
5. He Was on the Board of Directors of an Alternative High School Program that Helped Teens Struggling with Addiction
Eubanks was on the board of directors of the 5280 High School, a Denver, Colorado school that provides an alternative, hands-on education for students in grades 9-12. The school includes a program called Summit House which aims to help teenagers who are struggling with addiction or related disorders. The school says:
“5280 houses a program for students in recovery from addiction, eating disorders, or other challenging situations best addressed within a community of like-minded peers. Through strong community partnerships and a vibrant, positive school culture, students in Summit House gain the understanding required for life-long recovery, and are equipped to thrive in college, career, and civic life.”