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Address confusion delayed Cincinnati 911 emergency response for nonbreathing infant

Child's mom: 'I need an ambulance. Hurry up'
Making a phone call
Posted at 7:21 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 19:58:20-04

CINCINNATI — A frantic mother called Cincinnati's 911 on Aug. 7 begging for a fast response to help her infant daughter.

"I need an ambulance. My baby's not breathing," the woman told the 911 operator. "Hurry up."

The WCPO 9 I-Team received and reviewed a copy of the 911 recording. The caller said her address was on Roxbury, a street in Cincinnati's Mount Washington neighborhood.

The 911 operator told City of Cincinnati officials he heard "Rozberry" and thought it was Raspberry Court in Boone County.

So, the Cincinnati 911 operator added Boone County 911 to the call, but the Boone County 911 operator said the address didn't exist on Raspberry Court.

Two minutes and 10 seconds after the 911 call came in – 40-seconds after Boone County said it wasn't a Boone County address – the 911 operator still tried to confirm the woman lived there.

"Are you in Boone County?" the 911 operator asked the woman again,

"No. I'm in Cincinnati," the woman responded.

One minute later – three minutes after the call came in – the Cincinnati 911 operator told the woman he was using GPS information from her cell phone service provider to send first responders to her location.

In a memo published on the Cincinnati government website Tuesday, August 10, city officials said the confusion was partly responsible for nearly a four-minute delay in response time.

"It was difficult to understand the caller based on how distraught she was," said William Vedra III, the director of Cincinnati's emergency communications center. "That posed some difficulties for the 911 operator in understanding where the help was needed."

Vedra told the I-Team the 911 operator used the GPS coordinates provided by the cell phone carrier to get the caller's approximate location – near the corner of Roxbury and Salvador.

It's unclear why the 911 operator didn't use that information immediately to determine the caller's general location.

City officials insist a faster response time wouldn't have saved the child from what they described as an apparent accidental death.

"This is a tragedy, and the City’s first responders and I express our deepest sympathies for the family," wrote city manager Paula Boggs Muething in a memo to the mayor and members of the city council. "Upon arrival, Emergency Response found that the infant had been deceased for some time."

In 2018, 16-year-old Kyle Plush suffocated in a van waiting for first responders to find him after he called 911 twice.

The Plush family sued the city for Kyle's "wrongful death."

In April, the family and the city announced they had reached a $6 million settlement that included the city's commitment to long-term improvements for its emergency communications center.

The family and the City of Cincinnati pushed for better technology, including Smart 911, which can tell 911 operators the exact location of a caller's cell phone.

City officials said the mom who called 911 on Aug. 7 didn't have that technology.

Interested people can learn more about Smart 911 by going to Cincinnati's government website or by checking the government website in your community.