911 Human Error Delayed Help For Grandmother, Four-Year-Old Girl

Human error in 911 response, not further issues with New York City’s troubled 911 communications system, were the cause of a four minute delay between the time an emergency call arrived and an ambulance was dispatched to the scene of a car accident on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday morning.

Four-year-old Ariel Russo was killed, and her grandmother was injured, when their car was hit by 17-year-old Franklin Reyes, an unlicensed SUV driver who was fleeing police. He has been captured and arrested on on manslaughter, fleeing, and unlicensed driving charges.

An unnamed Emergency Medical Services dispatcher may also face disciplinary action because of the delay in getting the ambulance to the scene. On Friday, Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano admitted that an experienced dispatcher was going on break and didn’t see the call as it came in. He told CBS New York:

“The person that we interviewed said that there was a change in the shift, they were getting up and they just failed to read the screen…We’ll deal with that in ways of a person should not get up until they’re relieved properly…if discipline is required we’ll discipline people.”

Did the four minute delay make a difference? Nobody really knows, according to Cassano. Ariel Russo was still alive when the ambulance finally arrived after eight long minutes, but she died in less than an hour at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Before the fire commissioner came forward to point a finger at human error, the 911 system itself was getting the blame. The $2 billion overhaul has been hard-hit by glitches and bugs in recent days, going down on four separate occasions last week. On one of those occasions, it was down for an hour.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg told New York media that it was all part of the normal break-in process: “It has some bugs in it. All new systems have. You wish you didn’t have bugs but that is not the real world.”

In Ariel Russo’s case, old-fashioned human error, not the newfangled 911 network, seem to be at fault.

[ambulance photo by Ehrman Photographic via Shutterstock]