EMS refutes Lide Springs residents claim

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpressonline.com

At the Jan. 6 meeting of Darlington County Council, county EMS director Charles Stewart and residents of Lide Springs Road offered differing accounts of the events surrounding a Nov. 22 emergency that resulted in the death of 78 year-old Foster Henigan.

Christine Henigan, Foster’s widow, was scheduled to speak, but instead her niece Sarah Sherman recounted three incidents where emergency responders were hampered by poor road conditions and/or errant directions while attempting to reach residents on the eastern end of Lide Springs Road.

A private road located near the northeastern edge of the county, Lide Springs has unique access issues. The western side is accessible via Mechanicsville Hwy, but that stretch of road eventually ends in a blocked private drive. The east end, a narrow five-eighths of a mile dirt road plagued by deep holes, is only accessible by N. Charleston Road.
Sherman said that on July 9, 2014, a resident had an apparent heart attack and responding EMS crews took the Mechanicsville Hwy route and had to turn around and head over to N. Charleston Road, adding extra time to the call. She said the ambulance arrived 35 minutes after residents called for help.

She recounted a similar incident where a resident suffered a stroke on October 26, 2014 and emergency crews again took the wrong route and were forced to turn around.

Finally, Sherman told council that on Nov. 22, 2014, after Foster Henigan suffered third degree burns from a runaway yard fire, emergency responders took at least 45 minutes to arrive on scene and give Henigan medical treatment.
Sherman said that even when responders arrive, their progress down the road is severely hampered by the road’s poor condition. She asked council to please find a way to help address these problems.

EMS director Charles Stewart said that he had researched EMS response to the Foster Henigan call and found that on-board GPS tracking indicates an ambulance was on scene 23 minutes after the initial 911 call. He also noted that GPS info shows that ambulance took the correct route to eastern Lide Springs Road, using N. Charleston Road instead of Mechanicsville Hwy.

Stewart said the Nov. 22 911 call came in at 13:24 (1:24 pm), an ambulance was dispatched from the Hwy 151 base (behind the Sheriff’s Office) at 13:29, and it arrived at the scene at 13:47 – a drive time of 18 minutes, which he said would preclude having taken the wrong route.

“I don’t know that we could have gotten there any faster in this particular case,” Stewart said.

Stewart added that the dispatcher on this call took pains to explain to all responders that they must access the address via N. Charleston Road. He said it is now standard procedure that all emergency responders are reminded to use N. Charleston Road to reach residents of eastern Lide Springs.

“If they go out there now, can they get down that road?” asked council member Dannie Douglas.

“Now that’s a whole other story about the quality of travel. That’s a whole other situation,” replied Stewart.
Regarding that aspect, Darlington County attorney Jim Cox reminded council that, barring amendments to existing ordinances, their hands are tied when it comes to improving the condition of Lide Springs Road.
“Our county ordinance says that if a private dirt road is going to come into the county system, it has to be brought up to current county standards,” said Cox.

Cox noted that Lide Springs Road has problems with no easy solutions. It lacks consistent right-of-way, which would require easements from residents to remedy, and one resident has, apparently without permission, blocked the passage from east to west. He also warned that if council should make an exception for Lide Springs Road, then “a real parade” of citizens could turn up requesting similar treatment.

As has been the case at previous meetings when this issue came up, council members expressed sympathy and a willingness to help. Wilhelmina Johnson moved that council take action to repair the road, but her motion failed with a 4 to 4 tie vote.

Council chair Bobby Hudson suggested getting a group of council members together for a tour of the road, to see the problem up close and possibly come up with a feasible plan to assist residents.

Author: Jana Pye

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