I-TEAM: Family files wrongful death suit against first responders

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 7:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Ten months after our I-TEAM exposed the critical failures of Augusta-Richmond County first responders and 13-months after the death of a Hephzibah woman, her family has filed a lawsuit.

Gold Cross dispatcher: “What’s the address of your emergency?”

Nichoel Gaither: “Oh God. I can’t breathe,”

Gold Cross dispatcher: “You said you can’t breathe?”

Gaither: “I can’t breathe!”

Gold Cross dispatcher: “Okay, let me get first responders from Richmond County.”

Gaither: I live by myself. I don’t know if I can make it to the door.

Gold Cross dispatcher: “Okay, if you can’t make it to the front door, they will have to gain entry, okay? They will have to kick your door down.”

Gaither pleaded for help for more than 15 minutes while firefighters and EMS stood outside her door, waiting on a deputy to arrive before going inside her home. Gaither passed away by the time first responders reached her.

The lawsuit names Gold Cross first responders and the fire department. It alleges Gold Cross did not have sufficient staffing, which lead to dispatch sending firefighters to Gaither’s home.

It also alleges firefighters did not follow policy or directives requiring them to enter a residence to provide medical assistance.

Gaither’s family believes she “would have recovered and survived” if not for “the defendant’s negligence.”

The fire chief enacted a new forcible entry policy in late 2021 after our investigation.

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