Bud Kennedy

For Avondale, a sad reminder: It’s far from fire, rescue help

Tarrant County Sheriff addresses fatal domestic shooting near Haslet

Tarrant County Sheriff’s officials say they believe a man shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend before turning the gun on himself.
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Tarrant County Sheriff’s officials say they believe a man shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend before turning the gun on himself.

With two gunshot survivors bleeding in the Avondale Ranch neighborhood, the first question early Thursday was where to find two ambulances.

It took more than an hour to get the last patient to a Fort Worth hospital, and you wonder if lives could have been saved.

On the edge of northwest Tarrant County, 20 miles from Fort Worth, residents look to fire-rescue crews from Haslet, ambulances from Eagle Mountain Lake and help from heaven as both arrive on winding country roads or dangerous U.S. 287.

“We have adequate service out there,” Eagle Mountain Fire Capt. Greg Higgins said Thursday, “until something goes wrong.”

That includes anything requiring more than one ambulance. Dispatchers asked for a second unit early Thursday, and Fort Worth-based MedStar responded from near Alliance Airport.

Even though MedStar arrived in 11 minutes, the last patient from the 2:37 a.m. shooting on Taylor Frances Lane was not at John Peter Smith Hospital until 3:46 a.m.

On Thursday, local and county officials described that as a good response time, considering the distance to the Avondale area. But imagine how much longer it would take at the height of freeway rush hour.

“It’s a patchwork of emergency services out here, and people don’t realize the problems,” said real estate agent Lucy Puniwai. Her listings include homes in both new Fort Worth neighborhoods and adjacent subdivisions of luxury homes in rural Tarrant County.

At the time of the call, the nearest sheriff’s deputy was 6 miles away and responded in 8 minutes. That deputy patrols a beat covering 8 square miles, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

James K. Brantley, 24, died at the scene.

Michelle R. Morris, 50, was injured in what deputies called a domestic love-triangle shooting. Her estranged husband, James Lee Morris, 53, then shot himself. He died later Thursday.

Michelle Morris was pronounced dead early Friday at John Peter Smith Hospital.

Avondale Ranch is “kind of a haul for everybody — it’s just not easy for our providers to get there,” said Tarrant County Fire Marshal Randy Renois, who works with five commissioners to oversee rural fire and ambulance service funded by property taxes through Tarrant County Emergency District No. 1.

The Eagle Mountain department has two ambulances to cover a 30-mile area from Haslet to Aledo, but one serves the west side of the lake a half-hour’s drive away, Higgins said.

Maybe Avondale needs its own emergency services district.

“People here have a Haslet ZIP code, but they pay Fort Worth for water, and when they call 911 they might get the sheriff, Haslet or Eagle Mountain,” Puniwai said.

“There are all kinds of problems with response time, but you don’t even know where to begin to fix it.”

This might be the place and time.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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