Dispatcher Returning To Work After Teen Suffocated Following Dispatch Failure
Cincinnati, OH – An Ohio teen died of positional asphyxia in the backseat of his vehicle on Tuesday, after one of the 911 operators he spoke to failed to provide information from his call to police, who were searching for the boy.
Kyle Plush, 16, had parked his 2004 Honda Odyssey outside of Seven Hills School, where he was a student, KABC reported.
He was kneeling on the third-row seat of his vehicle, attempting to retrieve his tennis equipment from the cargo compartment, when the seat flipped backwards, police said.
The overturned seat pinned the teen upside down in the cargo area, trapping him, and compressing his chest.
He was able to use his phone’s voice commands to call 911 at 3:16 p.m., according to TIME.
Plush was unable to hear the dispatcher, but was heard repeatedly begging for help and banging on something.
“I can’t hear you,” he said with labored breaths, according to The Washington Post. “I’m in desperate need of help. … I’m going to die here.”
The call was abruptly disconnected, and the dispatcher was unable to reach the teen when she called him back.
Police began canvasing the school campus just five minutes later, but were unable to find anyone who appeared to be in distress.
Plush was able to connect with 911 again at approximately 3:35 p.m., TIME reported.
According to The Washington Post, Plush sounded weaker during the call, and a creaking sound was heard in the background between each of the teen’s breaths.
“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” he said. “This is not a joke. This is not a joke. I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van in the sophomore parking lot of Seven Hills [unintelligible]. Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”
“Can you hear me?” the desperate boy asked.
“Hey Siri,” he said repeatedly.
Police were still searching the school campus when Plush’s second call came in, but dispatcher Amber Smith failed to provide the detailed vehicle description and location information the teen provided on to the officers.
She also failed to notify the officers that Plush was in distress, and did not follow proper protocol in handling the call, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Issac said on Thursday, according to TIME.
According to KABC, one of the deputies searching for Plush contacted the 911 center at 3:44 p.m. – just nine minutes after the teen made his final plea for help – and asked if there had been any additional information, so he could perform another sweep of the area.
Later in the evening, one of Plush’s friends called the teen’s parents, and said that Plush never arrived to their scheduled tennis match, The Washington Post reported.
His father used a phone-tracking application to begin searching for the teen, while his mother placed a call to 911.
"My son never came home from school, and we thought he was at a tennis match," told the dispatcher, according to KABC. "We don't know where he is."
Hours later, just before 9 p.m., Plush’s father found him unresponsive inside the vehicle, The Washington Post reported.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Chief Isaac said the loss of Plush was “a tragic event that we don’t have all the answers to right now,” TIME reported.
"On that second 911 call something has gone terribly wrong. This young man was crying out for help,” he said, according to KABC. “We weren't able to get that information out to the officers on the scene, and we need to find out why.”
Smith has been placed on administrative leave, the chief added. But standard procedure for calls involving death only involve placing the dispatcher on leave for a week.
The dispatcher said that she couldn't hear Plush on his second call, despite phone recordings being loud and clear. It's not clear if there was an equipment failure.
Smith will be returning to work on Wednesday, according to ABC News.