Death Of Ariel Russo, 4, Shined Spotlight On Possible Glitches In System

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)The death of a 4-year old girl on the Upper West Side last month raised questions about the effectiveness of the city’s new 911 system.

Now, an independent investigation is under way.

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After Ariel Russo was struck by a speeding SUV while walking to pre-kindergarten with her grandmother, there was a four-minute delay before EMS was dispatched.

At the time, city officials including Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said it was human error.

But the city has now asked the Department of Investigation to look at the 911 system.

“I want to know the truth,” said Russo’s father Alan.

Ariel Russo, 2 days before she was struck and killed by an SUV. (credit: handout)

Ariel Russo, 2 days before she was struck and killed by an SUV. (credit: handout)

Russo’s family has already filed a lawsuit against the city for $40 million for the delay in getting an ambulance to the scene.

Family attorney Sanford Rubenstein said it’s critical that the cause of the delay is uncovered and fixed.

“Was it human error or are there serious problems with this computer system which affects the lives of all New Yorkers?” said Rubenstein. “This family wants assurances that an independent investigation will be conducted.”

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The union for EMS workers and others have blamed glitches in the new 911 system for the delay in sending an ambulance to the scene of the accident. All sides have said it’s impossible to know whether the delay factored into Russo’s death.

“Our hearts are broken, we’re broken,” the little girl’s mother Sofia said Wednesday.

A DOI spokesperson said the agency will be re-interviewing key witnesses.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended the 911 system, saying no calls have been lost since the new system was implemented.

The New York City Council has held hearings on the new 911 system following the fatal crash.

During a City Council hearing on the 911 system late last month, emergency dispatchers, firefighters and EMS workers said the city’s new $2 billion modernization of its 911 system, which includes using new technology and a new backup call center, is unreliable.

The new system has already crashed twice since going live about a month ago, forcing operators to take critical caller information using pen and paper and then pass that information off to runners who carry it to dispatchers.

Franklin Reyes, 17, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter for plowing into the girl and her grandmother at West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. He was driving with a learner’s permit, police said.

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