Listen: Bystander calls 911 after SC college student collapses at Hilton Head party
Bystanders at the event where a 20-year-old Furman University student died early Saturday morning on Hilton Head Island performed CPR on the woman until EMS arrived, according to recently released 911 calls.
Caroline Smith, of Atlanta, was drinking at a fraternity event inside a warehouse and talking with her boyfriend in a backroom when she said she did not feel well then collapsed, according to an initial Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report. Her boyfriend called for help and began CPR.
A bystander first called 911 at 11:51 p.m. Friday, but did not know the address. He called back less than a minute later.
“I need an EMT,” he said. “I think she’s dying. She just fell and hit her head.”
He told her the address, Meeting Dynamics on Enterprise Lane.
“There’s a party going on, a girl slipped and hit her head,” he said again.
He told the operator he did not see Smith fall, but someone else who was with her saw it happen, according to the 911 call.
He repeated multiple times that Smith was not breathing and the operator instructed him on how to do CPR.
EMS arrived less than eight minutes after the first call and continued attempting to revive Smith until she was later pronounced dead at the scene, according to the police report and 911 recording.
An autopsy was performed on Smith’s body at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston on Monday.
As of Wednesday, the cause of death and manner of death is pending per further analysis, but head trauma does not appear to be a factor, Beaufort County deputy coroner David Ott said. The additional medical and toxicology tests could take weeks.
Multiple people at the party told police drugs were not involved, but did say that guests had been drinking.
An obituary for Smith published by her family said she “had her life prematurely cut short by an accidental fall.”
“Her smile is indelibly left on the hearts of all those people who knew her,” the obituary said. “We will miss her fun sense of humor, her bright smile and kind words of encouragement to everyone.”
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating circumstances surrounding Smith’s death and whether alcohol was obtained by underage persons, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Maj. Bob Bromage said Monday.
Per South Carolina law, when a person under 21 dies in an accident where alcohol is suspected, a local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction must “commence a detailed investigation to determine the circumstances under which the beverage was obtained.”
The investigation is ongoing and witnesses are still being interviewed, Bromage told The Island Packet on Wednesday morning.
Smith was on Hilton Head for Kappa Alpha fraternity’s spring formal, which was scheduled for Saturday night on the island, Furman University director of media relations Vince Moore told the Island Packet Monday. He said the formal was canceled following Smith’s death.
The Friday night event “was not an official part of the formal,” Moore said.
Smith, along with Kappa Alpha chapter members and other Furman students, were at the Friday night event organized by the university’s chapter of Kappa Alpha, Jesse Lyons, the national fraternity’s assistant executive director for advancement, said in an emailed statement Monday.
Smith was a sophomore history and communication studies major at the college in Greenville. She also was a member of the university’s Kappa Delta chapter.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Zeta Pi-Furman sister Caroline Smith,” the sorority’s national organization said on Twitter Monday. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family, friends and our KD sisters. You are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”