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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A family from Columbus County lost their home along with all of their possessions last week in a house fire. As you saw FIRST ON 3 this weekend, Brian and Amy Smith say they repeatedly called 911 during the fire, but could not get in touch with an operator. Now Columbus County Emergency Management says it is investigating what happened.

“We’re in the process of investigating that,” Columbus County Emergency Services Director Jeremy Jernigan said. “We’ve been trying to make contact with all the folks that called and follow up. This is really important for us to determine what happened so we can prevent it from ever happening again.”

Fire destroyed the Smith family’s home Wednesday. They say they were lucky to get out safely.

When the couple got out, they repeatedly called 911. They say all they heard on the line were automated error messages. Neighbors called and had a similar issue.

Columbus County Emergency Services say it has never encountered a problem like this before and it is working hard to figure out what happened. The 911 Center just started using new equipment last week, but Jernigan says that probably was not the issue.

“At this point in time I wouldn’t say that there’s a problem with our equipment or that there is a problem with equipment,” he said. “We are going to do our investigation and let that determine it.”

The Smiths family hopes that this investigation will help the county to avoid anything like this in the future, but they are still upset saying for them it’s just too little too late.

“I am frustrated, disappointed,” Amy Smith said. “I mean it shouldn’t take all of this to get the ball rolling, but sometimes it does take things like this. At least they are checking into it now, but it’s still a little to late.”

Amidst all the heartache, Amy gave birth to a little boy just two days after the fire. The Smiths say his health is the most important thing at this point, and that possibly suing the county is on the back burner.

“I hope it don’t come to that, but you can’t ever tell,” Brian Smith said. “I mean I’d love to have my house back, but that’s out of the question, so the question is what’s next.”

The Smiths still do not know how much money they will receive from their insurance company. The Pleasant Plains Baptist Church is collecting donations. The church can be reached at 910-642-3939. Brian is a 36’30, wears a large or extra-large top and a 10 1/2 shoe. Amy is between a 12 and 14 in pants size and wears a large or extra large top. She is an 8 1/2 in shoes.

Comment on this Story

  • MUDD

    These countys are qick to raise taxes and fee’s and punishing those who do not comply but slow to pay for THIER mistakes and quick to put the blame on someone else,like the offended party, it almost looks like they are getting ready to blame someone else for or try and turn it around on the smiths, they need to take responsibility and pay for what these people lost and more, what goes around comes around,this seems to be a common problem here in the 5th distict,every thing about this is wrong own up and deal with it,if it was me I would be thinking doller signs some one would pay!

  • wanting to help

    Is there anybody that goes that way from New Hanover County, or maybe some people who would be willing to get some stuff out there? I think I have some clothes for the husband…..but being that I work full time, I don’t have time to go out that way!!!! I would love to help!! Maybe some people could get some stuff together and and somebody would be willing to take it out there!!!!!!

  • Guest28451

    They arent going to admit that the same week they put in new equiptment it failed miserably. Truth be told they could be correct it could in fact be a screwup by the telco in routing if there was a change to any programming or that the system got overloaded by the multiple phone calls from one local area could have caused the local loop to fail.. (Many who dont know that PSAP (public saftey answering points) are setup that the local telco is supposed to route the 911 call to the proper county agency upon dialing in fact its supposed to be so instantaneous thats why you cant hang up on 911 if you dial by accident they will know (thanks to good ole caller id that shows your address if by landline and your approx location by cell). It could have been a glitch between also the telco and the PSAP which is most likely the answer and if so the telco has some big explaining to do and could face legal liability (and with much deeper pockets then CoCo would have no choice but to settle the liability in this case). Im not advocating a lawsuit Im simply pointing out facts.. As a former Emergency worker and having worked in a system that was literally in transtion from a 7 digit number process for each department to a central 911 system trust me things can get fubared and usually its the telco that is responsible in the end when 911 calls disappear in oblivion.

  • SurfCityTom

    Now, the question remains as to which insurance company will step up to the plate.

    The article noted the folks displaced have some insurance which will cover at least a portion of their loss.

    Once that insurance company pays the claim, a part of the process will be to recover the amounts they paid.

    So was it faulty equipment? In which case the equipment manufacturer will be on the hook?

    Was it faulty installation? In which case the contractor which installed the system will be on the hook?

    Was there a power failure?

    Or was it improperly trained personnel?

    Rest assured, attorneys will find out or incur tousands of dollars in legal fees in that attempt.

  • pilady

    Don’t feel bad. I called Columbus County 911 about a month ago and got put on hold. My husband called for some one in charge to call us and to date no response. Someone was trying to run me off the road and after being put on hold I was then told to call NCSHP. What is the purpose of 911?????????????

  • Brian smith

    As far as I know and I know every one who called 911 that night. Emergency services never contacted anyone who attempted to call them. We never heard a word from emergency services and its been almost 2 years since the fire. I had contacted several lawyers who seemed interested in taking the case only to be told later on that we had no case. I guess that’s the good old boy system hard at work. Our son is healthy and happy and growing like a weed and I speak on behalf of my family when I say thank you to everyone for the help and prayers. This has been my 2 year update. God bless


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