'EMS Run by Idiots' email sparking debate in Aiken Co. after toddler death

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, July 8, 2013

WAGENER, S.C. (WRDW) -- Just like the sky, the mood in Wagener is gray.

Last Thursday, dozens of firefighters, officers and troopers responded to a home on Garvin Drive. The Aiken County Sheriff's Office says a father, Patrick Ryan Eagerton, accidentally struck his 2-year-old son as the father was pulling into the driveway.

"There were a lot of people crying, yeah. It was terrible. It was overwhelming," said Wagener Mayor Mike Miller, who responded to the scene to help in any way possible.

On Thursday, the boy was pronounced dead at 4:18 p.m. at the Richland Memorial Hospital, but just days later, an email from an Aiken County Council member addressed to top county and EMS leaders is stirring controversy. Click here to read the full email.

The email, authored by Kathy Rawls and sent to leaders like County Administrator Clay Killian and Emergency Services Director Tommy Thompson, says the child might have been saved if the response were faster.

"I know this email is bitter and sarcastic but I've had enough and I've cried enough," Rawls writes in the email.

The subject line reads, "EMS Run by Idiots."

"The mistake was turning the helicopter around," said Miller, who saw what happened.

Miller says precious time was spent by Aiken County EMS before a chopper was called. Five minutes before it landed at A.L. Corbett Middle School, less than a mile from the accident scene, it turned around, along with the ambulance, and headed to the Pelion Airport in Lexington County.

"I thought they were maybe lost or didn't know exactly where it was," said Miller, who actually tried to flag them down to help.

Like Miller, Rawls wants answers, too.

"Isn't it about time that the person behind the desk in Aiken quits ignoring the advice of VERY qualified certified paramedics at the scene and blindly makes tragic decisions like this one?" the email reads. "I don't understand their refusal to launch the bird when it doesn't cost anything unless the bird transports and whether the bird transports or not, it doesn't cost the county. In this case since they couldn't intubate the child, time was more critical."

"Would it have made a difference? I don't think -- probably -- maybe -- I don't know," Miller said. "But there again, time is of essence."

The email also presumably targets EMS Coordinator Harvey Jay.

"How many more are you going to allow to be sacrificed for our 'demigod's' ego?" it reads. "When will the idiot's reign end?"

Killian says EMS workers make difficult decisions every day. He says he doesn't know if something wrong was done in this case, but he says the case is being investigated internally.

Killian wasn't clear on the requirements to launch a helicopter, but he says changing policy for the county may soon be examined by council.

Meanwhile, Miller has seen enough. He says until the county policy is fixed, he's instructed his first responders to call for a helicopter whether Aiken County EMS is on the scene or not.

Though busy preparing for Monday night's funeral, the family of the victim briefly told News 12 that they, too, are concerned by the response time.

Click here to read the full email.

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