Town employee rescues local woman

Fred McCormick

After a long night of clearing snow from Black Mountain’s streets, public services operations manager Keith Belt was ready for some rest. All he had to do was drop a coworker off and head home.

But slippery conditions, windy weather and a sudden urge to turn left instead of right put him in the position to save a local woman’s life.

At the corner of Central Avenue and West College Street, the spot where Belt would normally turn right to go home, he decided to take a left instead. It was after 3 a.m.

“I don’t know why I decided to take that left that night,” he said, “but when I came up to the top of the hill I saw something laying in the road.”

Because it had been so windy, Belt thought that it was debris, blown from the driveway he was passing. But then he looked harder. .

“I glanced as I drove by and looked in my rear-view,” he said. A woman picked up her head. “I thought ‘Oh my God! That’s a person laying there,’” he said.

Dot Jones, a well-known 87-year-old town resident, had slipped on the ice after being dropped off by a taxi following a trip to the hospital, Black Mountain police Sgt. Joe Kidd said.

Belt got out of his vehicle and asked Jones if she was all right, “but she could barely talk. She was incoherent,” he said. “She was just shivering, she was so cold.”

Having lost her footing in the snow, she had been exposed to the cold for an undetermined period of time, Belt said.

“Bless her heart, she had crawled across the road and got as far as she could go,” he said.

Belt escorted Jones, who was lying in the road near the edge of her driveway, into her house. While awaiting the Black Mountain police, he ran Jones’ hands under warm water, hoping to raise her core body temperature.

Kidd arrived on the scene and called for medical help.

“She was really cold, so we got some blankets around her and tried to warm her up,” Kidd said.

When found, Jones was about 25 yards from her front door on a night when the streets were covered with ice and snow and the temperature was around 19 degrees. She declined to be treated at the hospital after her ordeal.

“The first responders took her vitals,” Kidd said. “And we got her into some dry, warm clothes and helped warm her up. And although she was fine, we didn’t want her to be alone, so I sent one of the other officers to pick her sister up and bring her to the house.”

Belt doesn’t know why he decided to turn left instead of right on that cold early morning. But he is happy he did.

“I don’t know when someone would have found her on that road,” he said. “I mean, it was 3:30 in the morning and we just had all of that snow. There was nobody around. I mean nobody.”

Kidd echoed those sentiments in his email to town administrators that praised Belt for his actions.

“It is our belief that Keith saved her life,” he said.

But as far as he’s concerned, Belt was just doing his job.

“We’re public servants,” he said. “I’m just glad that I came by and was able to help.”