Lexington County EMS crew member drags unconscious woman from gas-filled home
West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – A Lexington County EMS crew member dragged an unconscious woman from her gas-filled home Monday morning after it was discovered that she hadn’t followed two men out of the house who were both almost overcome themselves. The leak occurred inside the small home in the 300 block of Taylor Street in a small portion of the county that abuts the city of West Columbia.
Rescuers were dispatched to the home Monday morning after the people in the home began getting sick from natural gas that was leaking into the house. One of the people still had the presence of mind to call 911 before fleeing into the yard. At least one of the men who had escaped noticed that the elderly woman had not followed them outside, but at that time, both males were so sickened by the gas that they couldn’t physically return to rescue the woman themselves.
Lexington County EMS and fire service units including the haz-mat crews had been dispatched after the call for help, but the EMS crew arrived first. According to an eyewitness, once the crew members from the ambulance realized that there was a woman still in the home, one member dashed back inside, located the woman who was incapacitated by the gas, and dragged her outside to safety. This all happened while the other crew member began administering assistance to the two men who were able to escape. The eyewitness said, “The paramedic rushed back inside, and I saw that crew member drag the woman outside by pulling on her arms. There’s no doubt that it was a gutsy move; that gas could have exploded at any time,” he concluded.
At the time of her rescue, the woman was completely unconscious and had vomited, a situation that could have blocked her airway and prevented her from breathing at all. The EMS crew, assisted by arriving firefighters, provided care for all three until they could load them in the ambulances for transport to a local medical facility. The condition of the three has not been released.
Firefighters that had responded from the fire service, assisted by haz-mat team members from the Round Hill station, were able to secure the leaking natural gas. They were then able to ventilate the home, reducing the chance that the gas might actually reach the right mixture and explode. At the height of the emergency, a number of county responders were on the scene. This included one of the fire services battalion chiefs, an EMS supervisor, several EMS units, at least one fire engine, and the special equipped haz-mat truck.
It is not clear exactly why the gas was leaking or why the occupants didn’t immediately flee the home once they smelled the odorant in the gas. Ethyl Mercaptan, a chemical that smells like rotten eggs, is added to gas to make leaks noticeable. Sometime, if gas begins leaking while a structure’s occupants are asleep, they might not realize it, and die where they are sleeping. A natural gas leak, when severe, causes reduced oxygen levels, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, and irregular breathing. Exposure to extremely high levels of natural gas can eventually cause loss of consciousness or even death.
SCE&G has been on the scene of the incident several times over the last few days checking their service line into the home. Gas customers are responsible for all of the piping and appliances inside the home, and any problems with that would need to be repaired by a contractor hired by the home’s owner.