COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — David Outlaw was a survivor, so much so that his brother can't believe how he died, drowning in a puddle, pinned underneath his wheelchair after being left alone at the height of Hurricane Matthew to smoke outside his South Carolina nursing home.
"Even Gov. (Nikki) Haley said everyone needed to be inside," Richard Outlaw told The Associated Press. "My brother survived Vietnam, car crashes and two strokes, just to die in a puddle of water?"
Richland County deputies and state nursing home regulators are investigating outlaw's death Oct. 8 at the National Health Care facility in Columbia.
A nurse told deputies that Outlaw, 66, refused to come inside, so she left him in a courtyard to smoke. A nurse then came to give Outlaw his medication several minutes later and found him face-down in the puddle around 7:45 a.m., according to a police report. The report did not specify how much water was standing in the courtyard.
"How negligent is it to just leave him outside in a hurricane by himself?" Outlaw's wife Karyl said.
Richard Outlaw said someone should have at least kept a close eye on his brother if he wouldn't come inside.
David Outlaw had a stroke seven years ago that left his left side paralyzed. His wife took care of him until last year, when she decided to send him to the nursing home. Outlaw's health improved — his high-blood pressure was better controlled and his blood sugar readings were improving, his wife said.
"He still had a lot of life ahead of him," Karyl Outlaw said.
The nursing home has not returned several calls seeking comment. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which licensed nursing homes, is also investigating the death.
David Outlaw served in the Army in Vietnam, rode motorcycles before his stroke and loved to laugh and fish, his wife said.
The nursing home and deputies have told the family almost nothing about David Outlaw's death, she said. She's waiting on the investigations to make sure someone is held accountable.
"I was just so stunned when I was out there getting his stuff — I haven't told them off yet," Karyl Outlaw said through tears.
This story has corrected the spelling of first name of David Outlaw's wife to Karyl
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins