Sun City resident Raymond Teague (center, with dog Beauregard) reunited with the men and women who came to his rescue on the afternoon of June 18, 2022, in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office photo.
Col. Neil Baxley, the commander of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Emergency Management Division, has busted scores of South Carolinians during his 39 years at the agency.
He’s gone on missions searching for missing people. He’s helped find stolen loot and fished drowned people out of the water.
But he never got many chances to save a life, much less to meet the survivors later.
That changed on Friday, Aug. 5, when he was reunited with 81-year-old Raymond Teague.
Raymond Teague, 81, meets the men of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Col. Niel Baxley, and Cpl. Jeremy Dickman, on Aug. 5, 2022, at the University of South Carolina Beaufort - Bluffton campus after they saved him more than a month earlier when he collapsed on his property in Sun City, South Carolina.
Teague’s neighbors in Sun City, a senior citizen community with more than 16,000 residents, reported him missing on June 18.
Teague had bounded into the woods behind his home hours earlier looking for his dog, Beauregard, and never came back. Baxley told Coffee or Die Magazine the man had found his pooch in a pond, bent over to fetch it, and then fell into the water.
He spent the next 45 minutes struggling to climb out of the muck as the summer heat rose into the 90s.
Then, as Baxley put it, he made it “about 10 steps and collapsed.”
Tactical Flight Officer Cpl. Jeremy Dickman shouts “I got him! I got him!” upon spotting Raymond Teague, 81, collapsed near a pond after saving his dog, Beauregard June 18, 2022, in Sun City, South Carolina. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office photo.
Baxley and his tactical flight officer, Cpl. Jeremy Dickman, were finishing up a late afternoon patrol in their OH-58A Kiowa helicopter over Daufuskie Island when they got the dispatch. Eight minutes later, they were above Sun City.
“We got to the guy's house. We set up a circular pattern over his house, and about the fifth orbit expanding out, Jeremy is looking around and says ‘I got him! I got him!’” Baxley recalled.
Dickman reported that Teague appeared to have collapsed in an area cleared for power lines, about 900 feet from his house. The electrical lines prevented Baxley from landing, but he was able to use his helicopter to pinpoint to Bluffton Police Sgt. Craig Karafa where Teague had fallen.
Karafa had been off duty, but he responded to the emergency call and was the first person to reach Teague.
Bluffton Police Sgt. Craig Karafa performs a medical assessment on the 81-year-old Raymond Teague of Sun City. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office photo.
After assessing the man’s medical condition, Karafa called Jasper County Emergency Medical Services.
All the crew had to do was look for Baxley’s helicopter, which continued to hover over the spot.
“We were high-fiving in the helicopter because we had saved the life,” Baxley said. “That’s a tremendous moment.”
Teague spent three days in the hospital but recovered. Back in Sun City, the community’s security chief, Joe Shedding, thought it would be a good idea for Teague to meet his rescuers.
“And it just took off from there,” Beaufort County Sheriff’s spokesperson Maj. Angela Viens said.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office boasts 245 sworn deputies and a $32 million annual budget . It watches over more than 900 square miles of South Carolina. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office photo.
On Friday, Baxley and Dickman landed their helicopter at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Bluffton campus, to meet Teague, who came to campus with his wife and Beauregard.
“He’s 81 years old, and he got emotional” as he thanked the men “for doing our jobs,” Baxley told Coffee or Die, but the colonel played down their efforts, saying he and Dickman “had been in the right place to get it done.”
“We’ve caught bad guys with the helicopter. We’ve recovered stolen cars with the helicopter. We’ve recovered drowning victims with the helicopter. But this was our first life save,” he said. “That’s fantastic. That’s why we do this. There’s no better feeling than that, when you’ve done what you’ve been trained to do. And Mr. Teague is getting to enjoy more life with his wife and son. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
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Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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