After Busting Scores of South Carolinians, Helicopter Lawmen Get To Save a Life

South Carolinians

Raymond Teague, 81, meets rescuers from South Carolina’s Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Col. Neil Baxley and Cpl. Jeremy Dickman, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the University of South Carolina Beaufort — Bluffton campus. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

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.

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Raymond Teague, 81, meets Beaufort County Sheriff’s Col. Niel Baxley and Cpl. Jeremy Dickman on Fridat, Aug. 5, 2022, at the University of South Carolina Beaufort — Bluffton campus. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office photo.

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.”

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Beaufort County Sheriff’s Cpl. Jeremy Dickman shouts “I got him! I got him!” after spotting Raymond Teague, 81, collapsed near a pond on June 18, 2022, in South Carolina. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office image.

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.

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Bluffton Police Sgt. Craig Karafa rushes to rescue 81-year-old Raymond Teague in Beaufort County, South Carolina, on June 18, 2022. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office image.

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.

South Carolians

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 an award-winning journalist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who came to Coffee or Die Magazine following a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has strived to be a military journalist ever since her internships with the US Army Cadet Command in college. She worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military herself and served as a public affairs specialist attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. She deployed once to fill a role as a media analyst for the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve in Kuwait. She has a passion for sharing stories of heroes and people who are far more interesting than they think they are. She follows where the job takes her, but currently resides on the East Coast in Georgia.
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