911 calls raise questions about Marine recruit’s death during Parris Island’s ‘Crucible’
On a hot and humid late Friday afternoon, Pfc. Dalton Beals needed medical attention during the brutal final drills at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, known as The Crucible. But he wasn't the only one.
In five desperate 911 calls Beaufort County received between 3:39 PM on June 4th. At least two other Marines suffered from heat injuries, records show. You survived.
Beals, a 19-year-old from Pennsville, New Jersey, could not be resuscitated.
Several investigations are currently underway into Beals 'death - and the safety of the Crucible, a 54-hour training exercise that tests recruits' courage before they become Marines and graduate.
The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette requested 911 transcripts and audio recordings of calls from Beaufort County's dispatchers, as well as details from the Parris Island Marine Corps recruitment depot about the tragic events of the day.
The 911 calls indicate an intense scene on the ground while attempts are made to revive Beals and help the other two recruits.
They also raise questions.
How long did it take before anyone noticed that Beals needed help? How long had he been unavailable before the first responders were alerted and turned their attention to him?
Captain Bryan McDonnell, MCRD spokesman, said rescue workers from Parris Island Fire and Emergency Services, which had a substation in the Crucible training area, reached each recruit within 10 minutes of dispatchers' notification.
But Beaufort County's emergency call records show that some Marines calling for help initially struggled to reach the emergency response centers on Parris Island.
At that time, the recruits were taking part in Crucible Training, which begins in week 11 of their 13 weeks on Parris Island, a recruit station that trains 20,000 men and women annually.
Beals has been described as a "gentle giant" who dreamed of joining the military.
His autopsy was performed Tuesday at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, according to assistant medical examiner Debbie Youmans. Autopsy results are usually available eight to ten weeks later, Youmans said.
A Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation is underway into Beals' cause of death, MCRD's McDonnell said.
And a crucible safety investigation is being conducted by a board headed by a senior officer. This panel, made up of experts from the technical panel, is specifically concerned with the safety of the crucible, McDonnell said.
What happened on June 4th?
On Friday, the second day of the Crucible, temperatures near Parris Island ranged from the mid to late 1980s and relative humidity ranged from 60 to 70%, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information .
The first emergency call was made at 3:49 p.m. and claimed one recruit was suffering from "heat injuries".
"We have a recruit who is hallucinating," said the caller.
Beaufort County forwarded the call to Parris Island dispatchers.
Parris Island Fire and Emergency Services is based on Parris Island and has its own emergency services separate from Beaufort County.
On another call at 3:51 p.m., a Beaufort County dispatcher called Parris Island emergency dispatchers to see if they knew the situation.
An hour later, Beaufort County dispatchers received a second call for help. The distressed recruit was identified as a woman who was also suffering from the heat. In the background the people at the crime scene can be heard trying to help her by lifting her legs and trying to help her cool down.
"Open your eyes," said a person in the background. “I know it's cold. You have to stay awake! "
The calls continued back to Beaufort County.
When a call is made from a cell phone on Parris Island, it is first routed to Beaufort County dispatchers who then route it to Parris Island, Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Maj. Bob Bromage said. According to Bromage, if the call is made from a base landline, it will be routed directly to Parris Island dispatchers.
The third call for help came at 5:12 p.m. and requested Beaufort County dispatchers to take them to Parris Island.
"We have a recruit who's not responding," said a caller posing as Sergeant Howard. “I'm pretty sure Med One is out here already, but we have another one that is down; we'll call you right away. "
A minute later, a fourth call came from Hilton Head dispatchers who transferred the call to Beaufort County. The caller informed dispatchers that the recruit, Beals, had no pulse before someone instructed him to flag down an ambulance.
The call appears to have been cut and Beaufort County received its fifth call to Page Field for help. The people present at the crime scene can be heard trying to revive Beals with the help of the dispatcher.
"Carry on, carry on," said the caller. "Do not stop!"
The call was re-sent back to Beaufort County while dispatchers tried to connect to Parris Island before the caller announced that Parris Island police had arrived.
At 5:15 p.m., a Beaufort County (BCD) dispatcher called the Parris Island (PID) dispatcher.
The conversation went like this:
BCD: OK, I called you because we had CPR, the recruits. You set it up, right?
BCD: Is there something wrong with all cell phones?
PID: What do you mean?
BCD: It's rolling back to Beaufort County.
PID: Rolling back to Beaufort County?
BCD: Yes sir.
PID: Okay, thanks for that. I think something is wrong.
BCD: Yeah, you can make sure it's okay because we have about five calls from you about this CPR call.
McDonnell said late last week that the call forwarding did not appear to cause a delayed medical response.
In either case, the paramedics reached the recruits in less than 10 minutes after being notified by the dispatchers.
Did the transfers between Beaufort County and Parris Island dispatchers prolong that response?
Transfer times between dispatchers averaged less than 90 seconds, "so there doesn't seem to have been any significant delays," said McDonnell.
Reviewing transfer times will be part of the investigation, McDonnell said.
Parris Island Fire and Emergency Services was called around the same time to help three people at two different venues on Page Field, McDonnell said.
During the melting pot, an entire company, comprising six platoons with 70 to 90 recruits, takes part in the training at the same time and rotates through various event areas that are not too far apart.
Medical staff were already on site and responding to two people suffering from heat-related illness when they received the call that Beals needed help, McDonnell said.
They were a few yards away and went straight to Beals.
"Close enough to be there in a minute," said McDonnell.
Those medical workers were trying to resuscitate Beals at the time, he said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
McDonnell said he was unable to comment on the circumstances surrounding Beals' death, including whether Beals had already died when medical staff reached him as the case is being investigated.
Closing this week
A second recruit was treated at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Another was treated on site.
The names of the other people who needed medical help were not made public.
The melting pot that started on Thursday ended on Saturday.
Those who completed the exercise received their Corps Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblems, McDonnell said.
Chaplains and behavioral health workers were made available to speak to the new Marines, McDonnell said.
The closing date for the Echo Company is June 18th.
McDonnell said, "Our hearts go out to you [Beal's family] and the new Marines who have trained with Dalton."
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