I-TEAM UPDATE: As lawsuit filed, could a hurricane have been distracting EMS workers from giving full care to Paul Tarashuk?

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Paul Tarashuk was killed while walking down Interstate 95 in South Carolina. (Source: WRDW)

ORANGEBURG, SC (WRDW/WAGT) – A timeline of events in the case of a man suffering from a mental illness who died on Interstate 95 is coming into greater focus.

Paul Tarashuk was hit and killed on the interstate after Orangeburg County EMS failed to take him to the hospital.

Four different agencies came into contact with Tarashuk on the night of his death. We’ve obtained body camera footage from that night that shows the passing of the buck because focus was on a looming hurricane.

East of I-95, a storm is inching closer to the South Carolina coast. Hurricane Florence will make landfall in five days. Law enforcement officials around the region are preparing for evacuations.

“See what happens when a hurricane comes,” says one Santee Police Department officer in captured body camera footage.

Perhaps it’s the storm that clouds the judgment of the three agencies responding to mile marker 86 for the incident captured on that footage.

"So you are still driving and he could be on the back of your catwalk?" dispatch asks.

"Yeah,” the driver responds.

"Wow,” dispatch says.

"I'm doing 60. He's done something to my break to my truck. I'm losing air. I am at a stop now,” the driver says.

"Oh, my goodness,” dispatch responds.

A Santee police officer is first to arrive to the scene.

"Do you know who this guy is?" the officer asks.

"No,” the truck driver responds.

"Where did you come from?" the officer asks the nude man in the video on the side of I-95

The driver says the nude man jumped on his catwalk around mile marker 90, four miles south from here.

"I was on the side of the road talking on my phone, and the next thing I know I look up and this guy is in my lights running towards me,” the driver says.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol arrives next and starts asking the nude man questions.

"Basically, I want to know why we are on the side of the road and you’re naked right at the moment and on top of the cab of the truck,” the trooper asks.

The nude man is Paul Tarashuk. He is mentally ill – schizophrenia, specifically.

“Just drive me back to…” Tarashuk says, drifting off in the moment and unable to fully answer the question.

“The only place you’re going is to jail,” the Santee officer responds. “Public disorderly conduct.”

Tarashuk attempts to talk again, but his thoughts appear scattered.

“Look at me,” one of the responding officers says. “What is your last name?”

Tarashuk shuts down.

“You okay, man?” one of the responders asks.

Something has triggered Tarashuk’s schizophrenia. He won’t or can’t tell them his name, let alone what happened on I-95.

The trooper and the officer now begin to question the truck driver’s story.

“Ain’t nothing but a gas station right there,” the trooper says, trying to come up with a plan for Tarashuk.

“An Exxon,” the Santee officer responds. “Nothing but a farm down there.”

“That don’t make sense,” the trooper says.

“That’s why I called the county,” the officer says. “He said his car or something is down there.”

It’s unclear whether the officer actually tells the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office about the possibility of an abandoned vehicle belonging to Tarashuk. What is clear is Highway Patrol wants the deputy at mile marker 86.

“Hey, going to need you to come back in reference to the situation [in] Orangeburg,” the Santee officer says to his radio.

“Advising he will be under arrest,” Orangeburg officials respond. “Is that correct?”

“Affirmative,” dispatch says.

When he arrives, Deputy Cliff Doroski also interviews the driver.

"Tell me what's going on because I'm getting a lot of mixed stories, and I got too many parties involved,” Doroski says to the truck driver. “First off, I want to say do not lie to me. I am a human lie detector. If you are going to lie, I'm going to catch it."

“To be honest with you, I took a leak. I had to piss,” the driver responds. “So I miss in my cup and toss it out the window.”

The driver’s story differs from what he told the Santee officer earlier. He said he was on the side of the road talking on his phone.

"My whole point is this jackal says he sees him get on the back of the cat walk and then takes off. What moron does that? I am way too smart to buy that [expletive],” Doroski says.

All three law enforcement officers are suspicious, but they all agree on one thing.

“There is more to this story,” one of the officers says.

But no one investigates further. The Highway Patrol leaves Tarashuk with Doroski.

“They’re going to detain someone and then want us to the clean the mess up,” Doroski says.

“Oh, I am getting this thing passed down,” Doroski says. “He ain’t going to jail. I can promise you that. He ain’t my fish. I ain’t cleaning it.”

Doroski doesn’t take him to jail, but does call Orangeburg County EMS.

“I just want to get you some help, bud,” Doroski says to Tarashuk.

In the meantime, the truck driver disappears. Doroski later writes he doesn't know who authorized him to leave.

Tarshuk, meanwhile, begins to receive help from the arriving EMS workers.

“I am being [expletive] serious,” one of the paramedics says to Tarashuk, asking him questions about his name. “I’m sleepy.”

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep.

“Give me your damn name so I can go home for real,” the paramedic says to Tarashuk. “I am tired.”

But something blinds the paramedic to Tarashuk’s underlying mental illness.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” the paramedic asks Tarashuk. “Yes or no. Do you want to go to jail? Yes or no."

"Well those are your two..." the paramedic says, before trailing off.

"Then come on,” Doroski says. “I am going to give you a ride."

Doroski prepares to give Tarashuk that ride.

“Going to give you a ride to a safe environment,” Doroski says to Tarashuk. “That’s all I want. I want to make sure you are alright.”

Surveillance footage from that night captures Doroski dropping Tarashuk off at a nearby closed gas station. The footage then shows Tarashuk walking away. He walks half a mile before the Highway Patrol and Santee Police receive a second call to I-95.

“I think I hit someone,” a 911 caller says to dispatch near mile marker 97.

It was Tarashuk. He died as a John Doe.

Eight hours later, animal control finds an abandoned truck stuck in a ditch at the same mile marker. It was Tarashuk’s truck.

Had the deputy, officer, or any of the state troopers found the truck the night before, they would have also found Tarashuk’s ID, cell phone, and service dog.

"Did he go to the hospital?" asks a Highway Patrol trooper at the scene of the hit.

“He never went to the hospital,” a Santee officer says.

“So he got cleared and then brought down here?" the trooper says.

“Yeah, you want to read the incident report that I wrote up? I'll pull it up in the car real quick,” the officer says.

"Give it to one of them because I got to go to this hurricane meeting,” the trooper responds.

Another storm now brews as a sea of unanswered questions floods all of the agencies called to mile marker 86.

After we first broke this story, SLED opened its own investigation. Our report also gained national attention. The case has also gained the attention of the courts as the victim's family has now filed a lawsuit.

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