NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The family of a 4-year-old Manhattan girl who was hit and killed by an unlicensed driver is suing the city for $40 million.
Ariel Russo’s family blames her death on a bungled 911 call, saying it delayed getting an ambulance to the scene.
Ariel and her grandmother were walking on the Upper West Side last week when they were struck by the SUV that jumped a curb.
The little girl died of her injuries at St. Luke’s Hospital. Her grandmother suffered a broken back and leg.
Ariel Russo’s mother, Sofia, had a plea for the NYPD and the city’s 911 operators.
“Please, no more police pursuits in school zones during times when children are walking to and from school. Please, let’s not let another person wait too long for medical help,” Russo said. “No amount of money can ever take us back to our lives as it was. But this lawsuit can force the city to be more careful.”
Attorney Sanford Rubenstein is representing the family.
“The people of this city are at risk. They’re at risk when they need an ambulance. That has to be fixed,” he said. “This was a tragedy that should never have happened.”
Franklin Reyes, 17, is charged with vehicular manslaughter. He was driving with a learner’s permit, police said.
The lawsuit names the city, the FDNY and NYPD. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted the lawsuit does not name Reyes.
“The individual who was driving the car also has to be looked at but somehow that doesn’t seem to be on people’s agenda right now,” Kelly said.
The Russo family said the lawsuit is not about money, but if they do receive some it will be put to good use, CBS 2′s Tony Aiello reported.
“We did not put a price on our daughter. If damages will be rewarded they will certainly honor my daughter’s memory in an inspiring way,” Sofia Russo said.
Russo said her daughter was inquisitive — always asking “why?”
The same question her parents have.
Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said it was human error and not the 911 system that delayed emergency responders.
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. It took a total of eight minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene.
The experienced EMS dispatcher was going on break and didn’t see the call, but the dispatcher’s replacement acted immediately, Cassano said.
“In my mind, it was a mistake by the person that was supposed to be reading that computer,” Cassano said.
He has ordered interviews of the 40 EMS dispatchers and supervisors on duty that morning.
“Somebody made a mistake that was handling that call and we’re looking into it. We’ll find out what happened,” Cassano said last week.
Israel Miranda, president of the EMS union, said the call wasn’t on the screen and if it was, it would have been seen by more than 30 people, including supervisors.
“Everyone would have seen this call hanging there. And no one seen it, so obviously it was not there,” Miranda said.
Officials said there’s no way to know if the four-minute delay would have saved Ariel’s life, who was alive when the calls came in.
The company that developed the new 911 system has had similar problems with emergency dispatch systems it designed in Nassau County and San Jose, Calif.
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