North Georgia nursing home resident dies after found in ditch

A North Georgia nursing home resident in a wheelchair was found in a nearby ditch and later died after officials say she fell while leaving the facility after a fire alarm was pulled, unlocking the doors.

Dorothy Broome, an 83-year-old resident of Gilmer Nursing Home in Ellijay, was found face down along the southbound lanes of South Main Street last month, according to a police report.

Police were dispatched to the area about 10 p.m. Aug. 25 after a man saw the woman’s wheelchair in the ditch on his way home from work.

“He stopped and went to investigate,” Ellijay police Officer Jessie Lowery wrote in his report. “That is when he found (her) face down in the ditch.”

Earlier that night, a fire alarm was pulled and Broome fell as she was leaving the building and sustained multiple injuries, the nursing home said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through its attorneys. According to the police report, Broome had minor cuts on her hands and was bleeding.

“We have not been able to determine that anyone rolled her out of the nursing home,” Ellijay police Chief Edward Lacey told the AJC. “So unless some other facts show otherwise, it appears she rolled herself out when the alarm was pulled.”

Police are still investigating the events leading up to when Broome was found, but according to the report, a nurse was over heard saying: “I think she’s (Broome) the one that pulled the alarm.”

Lacey told the AJC the department is investigating if that happened and the nursing home procedures that took  place after the alarm was pulled.

“The nursing home is equipped with doors which lock from the inside,” Lacey said.

However, when the fire alarm was pulled, it “automatically releases the locking doors to allow egress of residents in case of fire,” Lacey said.

Other residents remained in the nursing home when the fire alarm ran and no one else was injured, Lacey said.

Gilmer County and Ellijay fire and rescue workers tried to help Broome, who was later flown to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga, Lacey said.

She died at the hospital at 2:06 a.m., police said.

Ellijay police are conducting a joint investigation with the Gilmer County Coroner’s Office, Georgia Department of Community Health’s Division of Healthcare Facility Regulation and the Georgia State Fire Marshal.

Gilmer Nursing Home said it is fully cooperating with the investigation.

No other details were released.

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