Friday, August 8, 2008

911 caller died after operator error

Darlene Dukes in an Atlanta, Georgia suburb, died Saturday waiting for help that was delayed 25 minutes because a 911 operator sent emergency help to the wrong address.

The 911 operator has been fired, said Alfred "Rocky" Moore, Fulton County's 911 director. County officials are apologizing for an error they say should not have been made.

The operator, whose name was not released, dispatched crews to Wells Street in Atlanta when Dukes was at home on Wales Street in Johns Creek north of Atlanta. Moore said the operator misheard the address spoken by Dukes, who was "in respiratory distress."

The operator should have noticed, Moore said, the call came from a cell tower in North Fulton, not Atlanta. "We are taking action against the employee," Moore said. "It's warranted."

Moore said the operator stayed on the phone with Dukes for 25 minutes waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Dukes fell silent 17 minutes into the call. The remaining eight minutes the operator spends imploring Dukes to respond, Moore said.

Johns Creek authorities responded within five minutes once the error was discovered, Moore said. By then, though, it was too late.

Ida Dukes, her mother, asked, "What happened to my daughter? Something went wrong and I would like to find out. If they had responded timely, would she be alive today?" Derrick Dukes, her brother, said, "To say that Darlene could still be here, I would really hate to think that something went wrong."

The mistake, Moore said, is one that should not have happened. Operators, he said, are trained to listen to folks in distress but also to focus on where cell calls come from. The operator, he said, should have recognized the discrepancy and asked questions, Moore said. (info from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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