Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Chennault informed the quorum court justices of the recent drowning death of a man at the end of March.
Chennault said that on March 31, a call was received about a man in the water at Ashbrooke [Island].
Chennault said that the man’s call was received by emergency responders in Washington County, Miss., because the his cell signal had gone through the cell tower in that county when he placed the call for help.
As a result, emergency responders in Chicot County did not receive the information about the call right away.
Chennault said Chicot County emergency responders got to the scene eight minutes after they received the call. At that point, though, it was no longer a rescue mission, but a recovery mission.
“He had drowned,” Chennault explained.
He said that the man had been on the phone with the emergency responders who had taken his call for about 15 minutes before they lost contact with him.
Chennault said the first responders on the phone call could hear that the man had gone under water, and he came back up about five times, asking for help each time.
Chennault said he had placed a call to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for their assistance, and that various law enforcement and emergency departments from Arkansas and Mississippi were on the scene as well.
“I learned a lot,” he stated.
Chennault said one of the things he learned about that incident is that the county does need a search and rescue team of volunteers for emergency situations; he admitted he did not think they needed one before this happened.
“We need a boat; we need a budget,” he explained. “There’s nothing in the budget for emergency situations.”
Chennault said there was a lack of coordination between the two states’ different agencies at the scene, and there was no incident commander either, which compounded the difficulty.
Chennault said that 335 volunteer hours were spent searching for the body of the man that drowned.
“As a minister, I got to meet with the family of the man three times that night…it was heartbreaking to have to tell the family that we couldn’t find him,” Chennault said. “It was a long 10 days.”
County Judge Tom Mosely was unhappy with the way the emergency played out as well.
“Too many people, thinking they’re chiefs,” Mosely said, adding that Chennault was not given the respect his position warranted at the scene.
“I want him to be able to facilitate, and he should be incident commander,” said Mosely. “That didn’t happen in this case. This is what your OEM man is for.”
Mosely said he wants to see the OEM coordinator working with first responders to be ready for any scenario.
The county judge admitted he doesn’t feel the county is prepared as best as it could be, but he said, “We’re working on it.”
The quorum court justices approved the OEM report.
Road Department Update
The road department is adding three employees to the payroll, one to drive a truck and the other two for general labor.
The department has been bushhogging the roadsides in the county to provide better visibility through curves for drivers on the roadways.
The department is working on patching roads and repairing culverts as well; it is about five weeks out from receiving a new trackhoe, which will be a “game changer” regarding the amount of work the team will be able to accomplish, according to Mosely.
Mosely said his agenda was to get the road department back in shape and that has been done.
Mosely said he and the other county officials care about the road department employees’ safety and about helping them to do their best at their job as well.
The crew has also been repairing the ceiling in different rooms of the road department building; some air conditioning and heating unit work will have to be completed in the building as well.
Mosely again mentioned the possibility of holding a quorum court session at the road department building sometime in the future—perhaps as early as next month’s session.
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