An investigation into the city's 911 system found that human error was to blame for a delayed response to an accident that killed four-year-old Ariel Russo in Manhattan in June. NY1's Mahsa Saeidi filed the following report.
Months after the accident that killed 4-year-old Ariel Russo on the Upper West Side, a report released Thursday said that human error was to blame for the delayed response time, not a technical glitch with the city's upgraded 911 system.
"I'm just shocked right now. I'm reading this report, and I'm like, this woman, she didn't do her job," said Sofia Russo, Ariel's mother. "My daughter was depending on you. Where were you? Why didn't you see it? Why didn't you pick it up?"
The report by the Department of Investigation found that the four-minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to the scene stemmed from a 911 dispatcher who didn't pass along the call. The dispatcher told investigators that she didn't see it in her system.
"She was right at the beginning of her shift, a shift that is 90 minutes on and a 30-minute break. She took her break 10 minutes early, at about 8:19 a.m. with the Ariel call pending in the system," said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the Department of Investigation. "We also determined that she had been using her cellphone, her personal cellphone, earlier in the day on her shift. Let me make it clear that she was not on the cellphone during the Ariel call."
The report also found that even though the system had been experiencing a series of temporary outages in the months after it was upgraded, it was working properly the day Ariel died.
The Russo family's attorney has asked the Manhattan district attorney to review the 41-page DOI report and determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the dispatcher. A spokesperson for her union doesn't think that's appropriate.
"After speaking with my member, our story hasn't changed," said Israel Miranda, president of the uniformed EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors' union. "That call, she says, was not on her screen, and we are sticking to that story, and we believe her."
Ariel's mom says that she believes the delay time could have made a difference.
"In my heart, I believe that ambulance would have gotten there, and her passageways would have been cleared, and she would have had a chance," Sofia Russo said. "But she never had a chance."