SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - It was a close call between two best friends who were deer hunting in Manchester State Forest in Sumter County on Saturday morning.
A Marine says he quickly jumped into action after his friend was shot in the arm and nearly lost his life.
Justin McLane and Will Eckhardt said it was around 7:30 a.m. when another man who was also hunting at the time shot McLane claiming he thought he was a wild pig.
"A gentleman assumed him as movement and possibly an animal and took the shot," said Eckhardt.
But taking that shot nearly took away his best friend's life that morning.
"I went to his immediate aid and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and call for help," said Eckhardt.
Unfortunately, Eckhardt says the cell service was not in his favor. He called it a blessing from above when his call went through to a man named Ed Laney.
"It is a very difficult place to get to and we firmly believe that a higher power made my phone work," added Eckhardt.
Laney has worked with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for more than 10 years and has seen several accidents. He called this one severe.
Laney says something told him to stick around in the area that morning. He chose to answer the phone call coming from an unknown number. On the other line was Eckhardt and McLane – desperate for help.
"I was about to leave and I said well I am going to stay here a while and check some more hunters as they come out. I checked two hunters, he called and I think it was meant to be that I was in here in this place when I was and had my phone right beside me and answered it and was able to get to him," Laney said. "With the cell service we had, it was very spotty. He was trying to talk to me and hold his friend up and hold the tourniquet on the wound,"
McLane is now recovering in the hospital in the ICU at Palmetto Richland Memorial - in stable condition - but may lose the use of his left arm.
The good news?
He has his life, and two people to thank for saving it. Doctors say if it would have been 15 more minutes - he may have died because of how bad he was bleeding out in the woods.
As hunting season takes off, Eckhardt felt it was critical to share this message so others take extreme caution during hunting season.
Laney stressed that hunters to wear international orange, tell people where you are going and when you expect to be home, and have your cell phone charged. Laney says McLane, who was shot, was wearing international orange.
Laney states that charges could be forthcoming for the man who shot McLane. The investigation is still underway. Friends and family have set up an online fundraiser to help with his recovery efforts and medical expenses.
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