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Car accident tests 911 system and ability of its operators

Residents of New York are probably all too familiar with sirens. Ambulances and police cars are the first responders to a fender bender or a car accident. With a total population of over 8 million people, it is no surprise that these occurrences are frequent. With the propensity of them occurring, however, residents rely on the people manning the 911 banks to be quick and reliable.

A recent tragedy has left a family in mourning and most of the city questioning how easily that tragedy could find them. During the summer, a 4-year-old girl and her grandmother were struck by a young, careless and apparently unlicensed driver. The police on the scene quickly relayed the message to a New York police dispatcher, whose job it was to alert the EMS.

Here is where the stories diverge. For months, the dispatcher maintained that she never saw any such message, which is why for four crucial minutes, an ambulance was not dispatched. An investigation that was ordered and carried out by the city determined that the message had in fact been on the dispatcher's screen.

A total of four minutes had already passed. Another four minutes would pass before an ambulance would arrive at the scene. Seven more minutes would pass before the ambulance would arrive at the hospital with the little girl and her grandmother, at which point the girl would be pronounced dead.

Authorities were still investigating the driver who caused the car accident. The family may already have a wrongful death suit against him under New York law for his negligent actions. Authorities have already determined that he was driving without a license; they are likely working to determine if drugs or alcohol contributed to the tragedy as well. Pursuing compensation to ease the financial burden brought on by the tragedy may ease some of the stress they are experiencing. What will not change is the fact that the family is left with a huge void where this little girl once was.

Source:, Ariel Russo car crash probe reveals widespread human error to blame for deadly delay, not 911 system problems, George B. Smith, Dec. 19, 2013