SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A retired police chief living in Surfside Beach is still recovering from a car accident that nearly killed him in March.

Ronnie Roberts retired from law enforcement in 2000. At one point in his career, he served as the chief for the University of South Carolina’s police department. Since moving to the Grand Strand in 2005, he’s worked for Horry County Schools. 

That all changed, though, on March 6, when Roberts was driving in Kershaw County early in the morning.

“I don’t remember much,” he said. “I know there was deer and I tried to avoid them, lost control of the car and hit a tree and totaled my car. I don’t know. After that I was out, and somebody, I guess, ended up calling the police somewhere. But it was in the dark hours right before daylight.”

Roberts needed seven surgeries to repair injuries to his neck, broken bones in his face and in his arm. He also lost all sensation below his chest.

“My wife said something yesterday, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll go get it for you,’ and she said, ‘No you’re not because you can’t get out of bed.’ So, you’ve just got to get used to the new normal,” he said.

Roberts and his wife, Becky, just returned to their Surfside Beach home last week after he spent six months at Shepherd Center, a hospital and rehabilitation center in Atlanta that specializes in spine injuries.

Becky is now his caregiver. The couple will celebrate 50 years of marriage next April. 

“They recommended she put me in a nursing home, and she said that she would not do that,” he said. “When she got me transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, she went down to the Walmart and bought a blowup camper bed, put it beside my bed and slept for six months. I don’t know what else you can ask of a person than what she has done.”

The Roberts’ new normal includes physical and occupational therapy as well as doctors’ appointments across our area and into Mount Pleasant.

Before coming home from the hospital, they had ramps installed to make their home wheelchair accessible. They also had some doorways extended to allow for a hospital bed and other equipment.

The next projects they say they need to tackle to help make the recovery process easier: making their bathroom wheelchair accessible and getting a car with a wheelchair lift or ramp.

Both Becky and Ronnie say the support from the community, their neighbors, and especially those at their church, Forestbrook Baptist, have made the process easier.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Roberts with some of those projects. Click here for more information.