An analysis of Aiken County EMS' response to a fatal accident involving a toddler details what appeared to be confusion and chaos.
Aiken County analysis of EMS response: Timeline of July 4 events
2:59 p.m. — Wagener Fire Department and County EMS Medic 4 were dispatched to the scene.
3:02 p.m. — Wagener Fire Department arrives on the scene. EMS Medic 4 is en route at the same time – Med 4 was awaiting clarification in the address because they were unable to locate it in the map book.
3:03 and 3:05 p.m. — First responders request that dispatch launch the helicopter.
3:07 p.m. — EMS Medic 4 arrives on scene.
3:08 p.m. — County EMS authorize the launch of the LifeNet helicopter.
3:09 p.m. — LifeNet acknowledged that they are in the air.
3:16 p.m. — Fire department requests the time of arrival from LifeNet – they said they were about 15 minutes away.
3:25 p.m. — County EMS Medic 4 heads to A.L. Corbett Middle School where LifeNet is set to land. EMS asks where LifeNet is – they state they are 10 minutes away and coming from Richland.
3:26 p.m. — Arrival time of LifeNet requested again – LifeNet responds that they are 10 minutes away. At that time, shift supervisor makes the call to have the ambulance continue to the nearest trauma center. LifeNet landing zone was then changed to Pelion Airport.
3:29 p.m. — County EMS is informed that LifeNet is five minutes from Pelion.
3:35 p.m. — LifeNet reports it has reached its landing zone in Pelion.
3:48 p.m. — County EMS reaches landing zone at 3:48. Loading the patient onto LifeNet was less than 10 minutes.
Conflicting estimated arrival times for the LifeNet helicopter that was to transport 2-year-old Ryan Eagerton of Wagener to a hospital led to the County EMS shift manager's decision to change the landing zone, according to the report released to Aiken County Council earlier this week.
Ryan was injured on July 4 when he was accidently struck by a vehicle at his home.
The report concludes that EMS staff followed protocol.
Aiken County Assistant Administrator Andrew Merriman wrote the analysis after he went through the computer-aided dispatch report, listened to the time-stamped radio traffic and reviewed written statements from staff who responded to the scene of the accident.
Merriman wrote that, to the best of his ability, he attempted to answer the questions that many have been asking since a strongly worded email regarding EMS' response from Aiken County Councilwoman Kathy Rawls was released.
County EMS response time
Rawls, who represents the Wagener area, asked in her email why County EMS took so long to respond, even though the station was less than a mile from the scene.
The Wagener Fire Department was the first to respond to the home at 3:02 p.m. after they were dispatched three minutes before, along with County EMS.
Merriman wrote in his analysis that County EMS was given the grid number of a duplicate address in Salley rather than Wagener. They did not leave the station until they had clarification of the address, which they said they couldn't locate in the map book.
County EMS arrived at 3:07 p.m.
“It is for this reason Wagener first responders noticed that Med 4 (the responding ambulance) was still in the station as they passed,” Merriman wrote in the report.
While on the scene, a paramedic tried to perform a tracheal intubation on the patient, but he “clamped down on the tube, making it virtually impossible to continue,” the report reads.
Merriman wrote that, after the ambulance arrived and was loaded, it was blocked by vehicles and fire department equipment when attempting to leave the scene. A fire department vehicle also struck the ambulance amid the confusion, but it's unclear how much time that added on scene, Merriman said.
EMS was en route with the injured toddler at 3:25 p.m.
LifeNet Helicopter landing zones
Rawls said the LifeNet helicopter was initially set to land at Busbee Corbett Elementary Middle School on A.L. Corbett Circle in Wagener, which was less than a mile from the incident location. The helicopter was then re-routed to Pelion Airport, which is about 14 miles away from the location.
The report reads that LifeNet, which was coming from Richland County, was in the air by 3:09 p.m.
At 3:16 p.m., LifeNet told the Wagener Fire Department that it was 15 minutes away from the landing zone.
At about 3:26, both the fire department and EMS were told LifeNet was 10 minutes out. The EMS shift supervisor decided at that time to continue the ambulance toward the nearest trauma center, and the landing zone for LifeNet was changed to Pelion Airport.
LifeNet landed in Pelion at 3:35 p.m. and the ambulance arrived at 3:48 p.m.
Staff reported that it took less than 10 minutes to load the child onto the helicopter.
Ryan Eagerton was pronounced dead at 4:18 p.m. at Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia.
Aiken County's concerns
Merriman said in the report that he was concerned with the time spent on the scene of the accident, which was about 18 minutes. He said that's almost double the average time spent on scene.
Merriman added that Pelion Airport is a little more than 13 miles from the scene of the incident, and it should take a vehicle traveling in normal driving conditions 20 minutes to make the drive.
“Running code usually shaves 2 to 3 minutes off the drive,” Merriman wrote in the report. “It took us roughly 22 minutes from departure to arrival at the airport.”
Merriman said they currently are awaiting a report from the ambulance driver for an explanation.
Merriman stated at the end of his report that he feels the decision made by the shift manager was “prudent” according to protocol provided by the Department of Health and Environmental Control and adopted by the County EMS division.
“It states (and I am simplifying) that the ambulance en route to a trauma center is not to wait on a helicopter, the helicopter should be waiting on the ambulance,” Merriman wrote.
County Administrator Clay Killian said in a memorandum to Council that they are continuing to review the County's EMS policies, procedures and management as well as consider any changes that need to be made.