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FDNY Commish: Human Error Delayed Response To Crash That Killed 4-Year-Old

Cassano Says Blame Does Not Rest With City's Beleaguered 911 System

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An Emergency Medical Services dispatcher may face disciplinary action for a delay in getting an ambulance to the scene of a car accident that killed a 4-year-old girl on the Upper West Side this week.

A grandmother and her granddaughter, Ariel Russo, were hit by a 17-year-old unlicensed driver who was fleeing police in his parents’ sport-utility vehicle Tuesday morning, police said. Franklin Reyes has been charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, fleeing police and unlicensed driving in the crash.

Officials said the call came in to 911 at 8:15:38, it reached fire EMS at 8:15:40, but an ambulance wasn’t dispatched until four minutes later at 8:19:42, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported. It took a total of eight minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene.

“Somebody made a mistake that was handling that call and we’re looking into it. We’ll find out what happened,” Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said Friday.

The experienced EMS dispatcher was going on break and didn’t see the call, but the dispatcher’s replacement acted immediately, Cassano said.

“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,” Cassano said. “We’ll deal with that. We’ll deal with that in ways of a person should not get up until they’re relieved properly — their screen should never be left unread because these are life-saving calls — and we’ll look at the person that handled that call improperly and if discipline is required we’ll discipline people.”

Officials said there’s no way to know if the four-minute delay would have saved the life of Russo, who was alive when the calls came in. The little girl died of her injuries at St. Luke’s Hospital at 9:02 a.m.

“I don’t know if that four minutes would’ve made any difference; there were people on the scene…there were police officers on the scene. I know there were civilians on the scene,” Cassano said.

Union officials pointed out that there have been problems recently with the new 911 system.

“In the last week and a half there’s been many problems with the system — freezing, dropping, actually falling out where it totally goes off and they go back to pen and pencil days,” said Israel Miranda, president of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union. “It’s not acceptable.”

Cassano defended the new system, saying glitches were not to blame for the delay.

“This particular incident that we’re dealing with right now, it was not a problem with the system,” Cassano said.

“Of course it has some bugs in it. All new systems have. We’ve got a backup system,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the 911 system back on May 31.

Fire officials said they are looking into charges of other delays, including allegations made by an NYPD sergeant that he had to wait for an hour and a half for an ambulance to arrive at a Co-Op City car crash, Kramer reported.

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