LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - It was an emotional day in Lexington County as hundreds attended a visitation for fallen Firefighter Paul Quattlebaum.
The visitation was held at Barr-Price funeral home in Batesburg-Leesville, where people from the community and those in the service came out to pay their respects.
According to the Lexington County Fire Service, Quattlebaum’s unit was sent out to a medical call around 3:30 p.m. Friday when he and his partner noticed a crash near the 5200 block of Fairview Road. Both firefighters stopped to check on those involved in the crash. During that time, officials said Quattlebaum was hit by a semi-truck.
The family wants Quattlebaum’s story to remind drivers about the Move Over Law in South Carolina. In South Carolina and many other states, there is a law aimed at protecting first responders and preventing these accidents.
“People need to think about what they are out there doing and they are there for us, they will give everything for every call they go on, they are out there putting their life in danger, and putting their life out there for us,” Cathy Currie, Quattlebaum’s first cousin said.
According to state law, drivers passing an emergency scene need to change lanes away from the scene, if possible or maintain a safe speed for road conditions if it is not safe to change lanes.
Drivers who violate this law are “guilty of the misdemeanor of endangering emergency services personnel” and face fines ranging from $300 to $500.
The law boils down to a simple concept-- move over and slow down, but despite that, Captain Winta Adams, of Richland County EMS says, for the most part, she generally does not see people abide by the law.
“When we have the public coming through and not slowing down, not moving over or not stopping it is very stressful, it is very heartbreaking,” Adams said. “We have had injuries that have resulted from our employees having to actually physically jump out of the way of cars coming through, or towards them.”
According to an investigation done by our sister station in Myrtle Beach, from 2016 to 2018 South Carolina troopers have issued 525 tickets for people not moving over.
It’s important to note those are only the numbers from SCHP, not any other agency in South Carolina. There is no system that can provide a total number of move over tickets issued statewide because those numbers come from each individual department.
“It’s definitely very scary,” Adams said. “We have our employees out there with their safety vests on to make sure that people can see them. The traffic accidents that we work is one of the most dangerous scenes we work.”
For this report, WIS also requested the number of injuries and fatalities involving first responders in the last five years from the South Carolina Association of Counties.
According to their worker’s compensation statistics for the past five years, for the 41 counties, SCAC provides insurance coverage for, there have been two deaths and seven injuries to first responders (police, fire, and EMS) related to a motor vehicle accident (other than a single-vehicle accident). This does not include the Lexington Firefighter killed in the line of duty on Friday.
This data does not include the remaining five counties (Aiken, Pickens, Greenville, Beaufort, York) that self-insure, and this also does not include statistics for municipal workers and state employees.
“Just move over,” Erin Gunter, Quattlebaum’s first cousin said. “Those family members want to go home to their family members, their family members want them to come home. We still want him to come home. We want to wake up from this nightmare.”
As for the incident that killed Quattlebaum, The South Carolina Highway Patrol is currently investigating the deadly crash.
SCHP could not provide us with any information regarding the driver of that semi-truck at this time.