COLUMBIA, S.C. — A man who drowned at a Columbia nursing home during Hurricane Matthew refused directions to come inside while he was outside smoking, according to authorities.
At around 8 a.m. Saturday, as heavy rains from the storm rolled through South Carolina, a nurse at National Health Care told David Outlaw, 66, to come inside. He refused, according to an incident report provided Wednesday by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Several minutes later, investigators say, a nurse went back outside to give Outlaw some medication. There, in the facility’s courtyard, staff found the man face-down in standing water from the storm, pinned underneath his electric wheelchair.
Outlaw was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before 11 a.m. Coroner Gary Watts has classified Outlaw’s death as a drowning. It wasn’t clear how much water had accumulated in the facility’s courtyard.
Deputies are still investigating the death, which was the second one to be reported in South Carolina in connection with the storm. The nursing home is also under investigation by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, which licenses the state’s nursing homes. It was last certified in August, and records showed an occupancy of 92 residents at that time.
At a reporter’s request, the state health agency on Wednesday also released information on two recent complaints against the facility. In both instances, DHEC inspectors found no fault.
In February, according to one complaint, a resident’s oxygen concentrator malfunctioned, and she was found “gasping for air, incoherent, soaked with urine and no nurse or aid had attended her.” In April, according to a second complaint, a resident was improperly admitted.
Officials with National Health Care have not responded to messages seeking comment since Outlaw’s death.