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How did student die in Seven Hills parking lot? Prosecutor Joe Deters launches full investigation

'Tell my mom I love her,' boy said in 911 call
Posted at 10:18 PM, Apr 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-12 20:53:15-04

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters is launching a comprehensive investigation to determine what exactly went wrong that led to the death of a 16-year-old Seven Hills student in the school parking lot Tuesday afternoon.

"The young man was trapped in the third row bench seat, and it is called positional asphyxiation," Deters said. "We are actively trying to identify experts to assist in us in this investigation."

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac have also ordered investigations into the incident. Isaac said one 911 operator has been placed on administrative leave.

Just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, 16-year-old Kyle Jacob Plush called 911 panicking. Over the course of a three-minute call in which he gasped, cried repeatedly for help and struggled to communicate with the operator, he relayed that he was trapped inside his car in the parking lot of Seven Hills School. A source close to the investigation said Plush was going to get his tennis racket from the van when he became trapped.

"I probably don't have much time left, so tell my mom I love her if I die," he said. 

The call ended; when officers checking out the scene attempted to call back, it went to voicemail.

RELATED TIMELINE: Here's what we know in boy's van death

A deputy sent to the scene soon after called in to report that he couldn't find anyone trapped in a van. He questioned if the call had been a prank.

Plush was there. He called again.

"This is not a joke," he said. "I am trapped inside a gold Honda Odyssey van in the parking lot of Seven Hills. ... Send officers immediately. I'm almost dead."

RELATED: Did a defective van kill Seven Hills student?

At several points in the second three-minute call, during which the operator does not respond and loud banging or heavy breathing can be heard, he attempts to call on the Siri automated iPhone assistant without success.

WCPO is not publishing Plush's 911 calls due to their graphic, disturbing nature and out of respect to his family.

Nick Francis, director of Experiential Learning at Seven Hills School, said in a 911 call a security guard contacted him and told him to call 911 because they found a kid in his car. Francis told the dispatcher he wasn’t at the school, but they had been “missing a kid.”

“I got a call from a security guy there because we were trying to find this kid, and he just all of a sudden called me, 'Nick we found him. Call 911, he's in his car,’” Francis told the dispatcher.

Around 9 p.m., according to police, a family member discovered him dead inside the van -- a death Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco would rule accidental "asphyxia caused by chest compression."

Something -- neither Sammarco nor Lt. Steve Saunders indicated what -- had pressed so hard against Plush's chest that he suffocated.

The information released by police Wednesday afternoon did not clarify the reason the first deputy to respond was not able to find Plush's van or where Plush had been inside of it. Plush's uncle, who declined to share his name or speak on camera, said Wednesday night the 911 system failed the "great kid" who had been his nephew.

Plush was a student at Seven Hills, spokeswoman Christine Hedges said Wednesday morning. The school has grief counselors on hand for any student who needs them. 

City Councilwoman Amy Murray, whose child also attends Seven Hills, also promised a full investigation into the incident on Thursday on WLW. She called it a "sad, sad day." 

Editor’s note: WCPO does not ordinarily use anonymous sources. However, in this case, we have declined to share the name of Plush's uncle in order to protect the family's privacy in the aftermath of the teenager's death. WCPO staff members vet all anonymous sources and believe the information they provide to be accurate and in good faith.