LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas 911 operator did not enter a call into a computer system that would have notified police and fire dispatchers of a mother and son trapped inside a vehicle in a pond, authorities said Wednesday. The woman died hours later, and her 5-year-old son was in critical condition Wednesday, police said.
The Little Rock operator who handled the call from 39-year-old Jinglei Yi has been placed on paid administrative leave while authorities try to figure out what happened. The operator has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Yi called 911 about 8 a.m. Monday after her vehicle hit a patch of ice, went over a curb and ended up in the pond, Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Cassandra Davis said. A county dispatcher transferred the call to the 911 operator, who spoke with Yi briefly before hanging up and contacting an ambulance service.
An ambulance was dispatched a few minutes later to the west Little Rock pond, but police officers and firefighters weren't dispatched until about a half-hour later — after the ambulance service called to verify that they were en route.
It's still not clear whether the delay played any role in Yi's death. A doctor pronounced her dead at a local hospital at 11:45 a.m. Monday. A medical examiner is expected to determine the exact cause.
Laura Martin, who directs the city police and fire departments' communications branch, said the operator did not enter Yi's call into a computerized dispatching system that would have alerted police and fire dispatchers. The operator also ended Yi's call instead of using a transfer option that would have allowed her to keep Yi on the line while contacting the ambulance service, she said.
"Proper protocol would be ... we have a one-button transfer switch where you get (the ambulance service) on the line and you remain on the line with them until you're sure that they have handled the call," Martin said.
On the 911 call, which The Associated Press obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, a county dispatcher describes Yi's situation to the operator in Little Rock while Yi remains on the line.
Then, Yi describes her location and says there is water in her vehicle.
"The water is in my car right now," she said.
The Little Rock operator asked Yi for her name and asked her to hang on.
"OK, ma'am, we're going to get some help on the way for you, OK?" the operator said.
"OK. Thank you," Yi said. Then the call appears to end.
Neither Davis nor Martin would identify the operator, who was hired in March and completed a six-month probation period in September.
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E Mark BalandThursday, January 17, 2013 12:09:23 PMI won't direct this to the current Topic that is being investigated. But these things happen sometimes when agencies depend too much on technology or rely on a member to simply move something in sequence to the next step in their policies. A real person needs to grasp the image or the scenario at the scene and see that the system is really responding to this event. The other thing that is lacking across many areas is citizen training. If humans are allowed to go get into trouble without any preparation other than to rely on a phone, then again too much is relying on these systems to help with while your clock ticks away IMHO.
Tiffany TylerThursday, January 17, 2013 1:12:21 PMI say negligence...
Alan W. RoseThursday, January 17, 2013 1:13:26 PMEverybody makes mistakes. This was a big one. Why did it take 30 minutes for the ambulance to acknowledge the call?
Ron HandkeThursday, February 14, 2013 5:18:32 PMThe 911 system has moved to a better way, but still remainds dormate due to the fact that yes, the Input is great, but there needs to be better ways to not have problems in the nethe land between INPUT, and OUTPUT. Humans screw up, happens more than people know. There must be a change that will not allow a 911 incoming call to be dropped in the middle, the equation of humans in the system needs to be updated or maybe there is a better way to remone the human completely.