SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham County officials say they are changing policy after photos of a Navy veteran stranded on the side of Interstate 95 went viral on Facebook.
Lisa Quanstrum posted on her page Saturday, explaining the situation. She said Paul Funk, who is in his 70s, was seen leaning against his vehicle “waving at anyone and everyone he could for help” on I-95 near the Georgia-South Carolina state line.
Quanstrum explained that Funk wasn’t feeling well and stopped on the side of the roadway to check for his medicine. When he went to his trunk, he shut his door and everything locked behind him.
“His phone, all his contacts, insurance info and wheelchair were on the inside of the vehicle while he was stranded on the side of the highway with nothing but his cane,” Quanstrum posted. “Paul doesn’t stand for long periods of time and only uses his cane for short distances.
“When I stopped he looked exhausted and uncomfortable, it was hot, already 95 degrees at 10 a.m.”
The Navy veteran told her he had been standing on the side of the road for almost two hours and no one had stopped to offer him help.
Quanstrum offered Funk a folding chair to rest. They called police, but were told no one would be able to assist, frustrating not only Quanstrum but many others online. Over 20,000 people commented on the Facebook post, many questioning why Chatham County Police or emergency personnel were not sent to the scene.
On Monday, Chatham County Manager Lee Smith released the following statement regarding the incident and future protocol:
I would like to thank the Good Samaritan, Ms. Lisa Quanstrum, who stopped to assist a gentleman on I-95 last Saturday. I would also like to thank her for making Chatham County aware that there was a concern.
Upon review of the incident, we have identified what happened and have put procedures in place, as of today, to minimize this type of incident from occurring. Our 911 operator, followed protocol that indicated that police officers are not dispatched for incidents where a driver has locked their keys in their car. As of today, the new protocol will require police officers to be dispatched to incidents where drivers have locked their keys in the car and there is a safety issue, such as, being stranded on a major thoroughfare or a child or animal is locked in a vehicle.
The Chatham County 911 Communications Center, a standalone civilian operated department in the County, dispatches 911 calls for all police, fire and EMS services in Chatham County. In this case, the 911 Center did not dispatch any agency. Social media posts and comments have questioned the lack of response by the Chatham County Police Department and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, however, neither agency would have been notified as the call would have been dispatched to another police agency.
Quanstrum said she and Funk were able to contact his insurance company and get him back on the road safely. She said that although she was disappointed in local law enforcement, as well as those who didn’t stop to help earlier, she hopes her post encourages others to do something nice for a stranger.
“Paul’s family reached out to me and he made it home safe!” she posted on Facebook Monday. “Thank you to everyone who shared his story, the world really is a small place.”