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S.C. equestrian credits FFs for saving her life after fall

When New Ellenton firefighters found Maria Duthie, she had a faint pulse, was barely breathing and was blue


By Bianca Moorman
Aiken Standard

NEW ELLENTON, S.C. — July 25 was supposed to be a normal day for experienced equestrian rider Maria Duthie, but it was different.

That was the day Duthie fell off her horse. She asked Siri to call 911 for help, and when the New Ellenton Fire Department arrived Duthie was close to death and wasn’t sure if she was going to make it.

“I was like really dead and I fought as hard as I could,” she said.

Duthie said she wouldn’t be alive to share her story if it weren’t for first responders from the New Ellenton Fire Department.

“If they would have arrived later it could have been worse,” New Ellenton volunteer firefighter Loretta Williams said.

Duthie, who works as a massage therapist for animals has been riding horses since she was 2.

“I never had a fall like this before and you usually know when you are falling and have a feeling,” she said. “I had none of that; I just hit the ground.”

Duthie said the day was hot and she had ridden four horses in the arena near her home in the Bridle Creek community.

While Duthie was riding the last horse, she said she had a feeling the horse might trip.

“The next thing I know — I would describe it as getting hit by a car and you don’t know that it’s coming — I was on the ground,” Duthie said.

After falling, Duthie said she couldn’t move and waited for a neighbor to find her.

“I felt like I couldn’t move anything, nothing at all, not my head, arms or legs, nothing,” she said. “This is bad, but I am just going to be calm.”

Forty-five minutes had passed when she used her cellphone to call 911. Duthie also said she was having a hard time breathing or swallowing and began to worry and thought about her husband.

Duthie said she remembered telling the 911 dispatcher she was dying and couldn’t breathe before losing consciousness.

Williams and two other volunteer firefighters from New Ellenton, Brenton Baranek and Larry Glover, arrived on the scene. It was Baranek’s first day on the job.

Baranek, Glover and Williams said once they arrived at the scene, Duthie had a faint pulse, was barely breathing and was blue. Baranek said the team brought all their life-saving equipment to the field where Duthie had fallen.

For 10 minutes the team worked on keeping Duthie breathing by giving her oxygen; they couldn’t resuscitate her for fear of causing damage to her neck.

Before the ambulance arrived, the three first responders were able to get her conscious and talk with her neighbor and friends. Baranek said it was a team effort that helped them to resuscitate Duthie.

Baranek said Duthie was able to answer questions by the time she was put into the ambulance.

“It was one of those calls that everything went right,” Baranek said.

At the hospital, Duthie was told by a doctor that the C2 vertebrae in her neck had been broken.

“If they would have been minutes later I would not have survived,” she said. “If they would have tried to revive me in any other way they would have killed me.”

In August, Duthie was able to thank the first responders for saving her life at a New Ellenton town meeting.

“I want them to know how important what they do is and how much we value it,” she said.

Duthie said all the credit goes to the New Ellenton Fire Department. Williams, who has been with the department for 25 years, said some days are better than others.

That was a good day, she said.

Baranek said most days on the job, some people aren’t as lucky as Duthie, but that day was a sigh of relief. It made his day on the job rewarding.

“She was on her way when we showed up and we were able to reverse that,” he said. “It’s a very nice thing to be able to do that.”

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