Controversy caused over corpse hauled in truck

  By Lesley Hughes
star staff
  The Carter County Rescue Squad held a press conference yesterday at 3 p.m. to address controversy surrounding an investigation involving their decision not to transport a decaying body nearly two weeks ago.
  Family members of Paul "Buc" Guinn discovered his body at his residence in Elk Mills on Aug. 3. Authorities believe he had been dead approximately four days when he was found. Harry Marlow and Barbara Vines, Guinn's nephew and niece, spoke with two Carter County Rescue Squad members, who reported that hauling a decayed body in the ambulance would cause contamination. A decision was made by Deputy Director David Nichols to transport the body in the back of a pick-up truck to Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
  CCRS Director Terry Arnold said, "They had spoken with the family at the scene and told them what they were going to do and they had no problem with it."
  The body was taken to Sycamore Shoals and later transported to Quillen Medical Center by a contaminated ambulance belonging to the Washington County Rescue Squad.
  Family members were still mourning Quinn's death when they saw a television news report on Tuesday that said Commissioner John D. Snyder and Sheriff John Henson had spoken with the family and called an investigation into the incident by the Investigation Committee of the Carter County Commission.
  The family denies talking with Henson or Snyder and said the only investigation they want is one to determine if their uncle died of natural causes.
  Henson said the decision was a "disgrace to the family" and that he had seen other bodies that were contaminated far worse that were transported by ambulance. Commissioner Tom "Yogi" Bowers also said at Monday's County Commission meeting that Guinn was disrespected and treated like "a run-over dog. That was an insult to him and his family."
  If the ambulance had been contaminated the Rescue Squad could have lost a $100,000 truck for three months or longer, depending on the extent of the contamination. Johnson County Rescue Squad spent nearly 20 weeks and about $13,000 trying to decontaminate an ambulance without success.
  "It should not have ever gone that far. It should have been discussed with the parties involved and not brought out publicly. The family has actually been saddened by all this. They had to deal with the death and now all of this also," Arnold said.
  Body fluids that can come in contact with the rescue crew can be very harmful. Arnold said some body fluids can eat flesh away and cited a case where fluids came in contact with the arm of a worker exhuming a body. The worker almost had to have his arm amputated due to eaten flesh.
  "When he (Bowers) stated that we were a disgrace to our community, that was enough for us. We are not going to take it anymore," Arnold said. "We have to make sure our infection control is in progress the whole time. We have to use the trucks daily. We have to clean them after every patient. When you carry a body it can be down for a long time."
  EMS Medical Director Vance Shaw, M.D. said, "It is a pretty well known phenomenon that you can't salvage a vehicle after that type of exposure. It shouldn't even be an issue. The county should have another method for dealing with this type of problem. Our suggestion a year ago was to get a trailer with the sole purpose to transport corpses in. There is very few people who can keep from vomiting in that type of situation. To put someone who would be driving an ambulance to drive for 30 minutes with that smell. There is no way to escape the smell," Shaw added.
  Vines said rescue workers had to use respirators to enter the trailer because the smell was so bad. "The family is not upset with anything the squad did. In fact, the squad, throughout the whole evening, continuously told us how sorry they was that we had the loss. The Sheriff was there for a long time and he never as much as said he was sorry or said hello or anything. We have been on to this Sheriff to investigate why he died. The investigation is at a stand-still until the autopsy comes back."
  Marlow added, "We have nothing at all against how the Rescue Squad handled it. As far as that goes, the deputy coroner and them all did a wonderful job."
  Robin Young, also a niece, said the family was only disrespected when the Sheriff and the coroner stopped at a Texaco station in Hampton to get a cup of coffee while transporting the body of their uncle. "They went inside and got a cup of coffee and left the body in the back of the truck. Is that disrespectful? Yes. The Sheriff was in there telling everybody there was a body. We have an eye witness. To me, forget being on the back of a truck, but stopping to get a cup of coffee is disrespectful.
  "We have questioned the Sheriff's department, like 'Have you heard anything? Are you guys doing anything?' He (Henson) is the one who opened this can of worms, so we are going to let them on out. We didn't have a problem until now. The Sheriff has disrespected us dearly. But that is to be expected, because he is a disgrace to Carter County," Young added.
  Vines spoke on behalf of the family saying, "Thank you to the Carter County Rescue Squad. They do a tremendous job. They are our heroes. They are out saving lives every minute of every day. They are to be recognized on the job they do."
  Marlow said, "especially those two that were up there that night. If all of them are like that then they have a good bunch of people. They were two professional guys there."
  Kevin Hatley and Jason Davenport were the two rescue workers who responded to the scene.