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First responders unable to reach cardiac arrest patient due to faulty gate

First responders unable to reach cardiac arrest patient due to faulty gate
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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SHALLOTTE, N.C. (WECT) - People living in the gated community Shell Point Acres are concerned about their safety after first responders couldn’t get to a woman suffering from cardiac arrest early Tuesday morning.

Living right next to the gate to Shell Point Acres has made Jenna Wieneke the gatekeeper, letting a variety of services into the neighborhood.

“If I hear the sirens blowing, if I’m here I’ll let them in,” said Wieneke, remembering the many times she’s let a first responder in after the gate wouldn’t open on its own. “Even the trash man — I can hear him coming down the road. The mail lady had an issue [several times], so I’ve been letting them in.”

That’s because the gate hasn’t worked as it’s supposed to in ages. First responders say codes they’ve been given don’t work and the yelp siren that’s supposed to activate the gate doesn’t make a difference either.

Much of the community is made of seniors, so emergency medical calls are not uncommon. Chief Mark Hewett with the Civietown Fire Department says in the last several weeks, they’ve responded to four or five different calls to Shell Point Acres.

On Tuesday, Wieneke was the person in need of help.

“I either had a stroke, ministroke, a seizure — something medical,” said Wieneke. “My husband [said] he had to pry my mouth open and was giving me [CPR.]”

To no one’s surprise, first responders couldn’t get in.

“Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office got there first, we come in behind them,” said Chief Hewett. “You’ve got a sheriff’s car and a fire truck sitting there and neither one of them could get through the gate. They tried all the codes we supposedly had and nothing worked.”

Wieneke is back home now, thankful her husband could make the call for help, even if the malfunctioning gate delayed the response.

“He was on the phone with 911 in there with me and they told him not to leave me,” said Wieneke. “That’s when he panicked. Luckily — I commend my neighbor next door — she let them in.”

Wieneke is still shaken and worried about what might happen next time, whether it’s her or her elderly neighbors that may need help.

“The people that are in charge right now, they should also be concerned. What if something tragic happens. It’s just not right to be the way it is right now.”

Although this isn’t the first time the fire department has had issues with the Shell Point Acres gate, Chief Hewett says it wasn’t always this way. At one time, he says the codes worked but that stopped about two to three years ago. Residents say that’s when the current Property Owners Association board members took office.

While neighbors call for the POA to upgrade the gate, first responders say they may eventually have to take matters into their own hands.

“If someone’s life’s in danger or there’s a house on fire and we’re going in, we have all rights to take that gate out,” said Chief Hewett. “The bumpers on them trucks will take it out. We’re not going to wait on the gate no longer.”

Until something is done Wieneke hopes the POA’s Board of Directors will agree to the simpler solution of leaving the gate open until the issue is resolved, however, she isn’t convinced the leaders will go for the idea.

“Their concern is theft and people coming in that don’t belong here but it’s keeping out the wrong people,” said Wieneke.

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