Good Samaritan helps veteran stranded on I-95 in Chatham County

Good Samaritan helps veteran stranded on I-95 in Chatham County

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Chatham County officials say they are changing their policies after an elderly man was locked out of his car and stranded on I-95 over the weekend, and no one was dispatched to help him.

A Good Samaritan stopped to help. Her Facebook post is what caught the attention of people around the country.

Before Monday, Chatham County dispatchers were told not to send people to help with unlocked cars - instead encouraging insurance companies or Triple A. However, after 50,000 shares on Facebook, the county is changing that decision where there is a threat to someone’s safety.

Paul is a veteran in his 70s who was driving up to Pennsylvania from Florida. He accidentally locked himself outside of his car while trying to get some medicine out of his trunk Saturday afternoon. Not only was he outside in 90 plus degree weather, but he was without his phone, his wheelchair, and his money.

“You know, I think about my daughter or my parents sitting on the side of I-95. Though they shouldn’t, they are driving 80 or 90 miles-per-hour or greater. That’s an unsafe situation," said Lee Smith, Chatham County Manager.

Lisa Quanstrum, who was driving up to South Carolina, saw Paul holding on to his cane and trying to wave someone down for help. Lisa stopped and immediately called 911. To her surprise, they said they couldn’t help.

“My intention was to email Chatham County the next day and just show them how their procedure failed Paul, but as the day went on, the situation just ate away at me," Quanstrum said.

Per Chatham County’s old policy, first responders could not help people who had locked themselves out of their cars. Lisa’s Facebook post is changing that.

“We’ve put in our protocols today that if a dispatcher is in doubt, the supervisors are right there to step over and say 'that protocol for the agency is not that, but send someone," Smith said.

Now, the new protocol will require police officers to be dispatched to these situations where there is a safety issue like this one.

“Of course, the communicator is upset because they feel like they’ve done something wrong. We’ve reassured that you were not. You followed the protocols in place, though we feel the protocols are not what we should do in treating people here in Chatham County.”

The powerful Facebook post has promoted change within two days, but Quanstrum wants the county to take responsibility for how this old policy failed a veteran.

“I feel like they should have addressed Paul, because Paul was the one who was inconvenienced, and Paul was the one who had his life on the line by himself for literally hours," she said.

After Triple A came to help Paul get back in his car, he drove to Aiken, South Carolina, to stay with family members before continuing his trip back home to Pennsylvania.

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