Two N.C. Highway Patrol troopers were turned away from the gate at Baxter Healthcare in North Cove on Sunday when they attempted to notify a man working there that his son had been killed in a car wreck earlier that day.
One of the troopers said it was especially important for him to try to deliver that terrible news in person.
“I found out my grandmother died on Facebook,” said Trooper Jason Metcalf. “No one should have to go through that.”
On Sunday, Donald Seth Norton, 36, of Marion, was killed when his car overturned on Zion Hill Road. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was partially ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Next came the daunting task to notify his next kin, Norton’s father. This was the second death notification of the weekend for Metcalf. The earlier one occurred in Rutherford County.
Metcalf said he went to the Norton home and found no one there.
“I talked to their landlord, Paul Baker, who said he (the father) was at work at Baxter,” Metcalf said.
As Metcalf arrived at Baxter Healthcare to alert a father his son had died in a car accident, he was denied entry by security guards. Seth Norton, the man killed in the accident, was also an employee of Baxter.
“I took another trooper with me and we drive up to the guard house and tell them that we need to speak to Mr. Norton because his son has been involved in a terrible accident,” Metcalf told The McDowell News.
The guard made a quick phone call, Metcalf said, and returned saying the troopers were not allowed on the premises and must leave.
“I asked him if he was serious and he said ‘it was Baxter policy’,” said Metcalf. “So we left and we were going to wait until he got off work.”
Meanwhile, thinking that Mr. Norton had been notified of his son’s death, Baker texted him hours after the accident to offer his condolences.
“We’ve been lifelong friends,” said Baker. “I just knew he would have already known about it because Jason was leaving for Baxter right after we talked.”
The text left Seth Norton’s father wondering what had happened.
“… he called me, and asked me what was going on and I just sank in my chair,” Baker said.
Metcalf said he has never been turned away like that before given the circumstances.
“It’s bad enough as it is to give a death notification, and I hate when someone has to find out another way,” Metcalf said. “I just didn’t think it was right the way it went down.”
The McDowell News contacted Baxter Healthcare on Monday for an explanation.
Baxter spokesperson John O’Malley sent this response on Tuesday.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of this tragedy within the Baxter family and have personally extended our condolences to the accident victim's family and colleagues. To help ensure the safety and protection of our employees and the community, and in recognition of the regulated manufacturing we conduct at the site, public access to our facilities is restricted. We truly regret if in this case our procedures impacted notification to an employee about the accident. We've ensured our internal staff and those we work with are clear on steps to take in any future interactions with visitors to the facility. We maintain proactive dialog and a constructive relationship with law enforcement and public safety agencies in and around Marion, and are grateful for their ongoing support and partnership.”
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