Lancaster County paramedic dies weeks after contracting COVID-19

LANCASTER, S.C. — Richard McKinney was a big man with a big heart.

“He’s like a big teddy bear,” said fellow paramedic and longtime friend Josh Faulkenberry.

Two weeks ago, Faulkenberry said McKinney started to get sick.

“He just started feeling not well. Then all of a sudden, (he) started having more of the respiratory symptoms. He got tested and found out he was positive,” Faulkenberry said.

It quickly got worse. Breathing became harder and McKinney, 45, went to the hospital.

On Tuesday, Channel 9 learned that McKinney had died. First responders and emergency vehicles lined the streets as his body was transported from Rock Hill back to Lancaster Tuesday afternoon.

Emergency Medical Services Director Clay Catoe said that since the pandemic started, more than half his staff has contracted COVID-19, including himself. When Channel 9 spoke with him last week, they were all focused on getting one of their best back to the work he loves.

“Everybody’s kind of walking on eggshells,” Catoe said. “We’re 125 employees, and we’re all here to support him, and we want him to pull through.”

McKinney had been put on a ventilator and a prayer vigil was held for him last Tuesday night. It involved a large crowd of his EMS, fire and law enforcement family.

They all signed T-shirts for him, encouraged his family and prayed.

In May 2020, Rock Hill paramedic Pearl Lemieux, then 63, survived 14 days on a ventilator. She was cheered when she walked out of rehab. Now, she’s back at work at Piedmont EMS.

In Lancaster, co-workers had hoped to tell the same story about McKinney.

“I know Richard’s a fighter. Between what I know about him, and what I know about God, he’s going to pull through,” Faulkenberry had said.

(WATCH BELOW: Paramedic shares her experience with COVID-19)