GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Four Gaston County emergency medical services personnel have been suspended without pay, and another was discharged after allegedly drinking and partying while on a mission to assist hurricane victims.
The incident occurred after a Gaston County EMS crew was sent to a North Carolina town hit by Hurricane Florence.
"They were part of the relief effort. They were on duty at all times, correct?" reporter Stephanie Tinoco asked Gaston County Chairman Chad Brown.
"As my understanding with the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) effort, you are on duty for 24/7,” Brown said. “That's the way they would pay."
"Since they were being paid for hurricane duty, were they also being paid for that time that they spent drinking or partying?" Tinoco asked.
"I do know the manager's office is looking into that,” Brown said.
Gaston County EMS officials said no one missed any calls or responded to calls after consuming alcohol.
“In Gaston County, we will not condone any part of that,” Brown said. "Some bad decisions were made. We do know that.”
Gaston County officials said a crew of 10 was deployed to Bladen County on Sept. 11 to assist with preparation for and the immediate aftermath from the hurricane. The deployment was initially scheduled for five days, but due to road conditions, the crew stayed an additional two days.
County commissioners confirmed one person resigned, another was fired, and multiple people have been suspended.
However, they said that not everyone participated in the drinking.
“There were people in that group that went down who didn't act in that way,” Brown said. “I've heard some had left to not be a part of that."
In a press release, officials said:
"Although these personnel provided valuable services in Bladen County, there were some poor decisions made by some personnel during their down time that were inconsistent with the values of Gaston County EMS and Gaston County government. Unfortunately, in this instance appropriate disciplinary action had to be taken for each individual involved."
Channel 9 asked EMS officials what the standard operating procedure is for out-of-county response and if any changes to policies will be made in the future.
They have not yet responded.
This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information.
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