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Police Launch Investigation Into Seven Hills Student Death

Ann Thompson
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Issac

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Issac is launching an internal investigation and a 911 dispatcher is on administrative leave following the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush, a Seven Hills student.

"This was a horrific tragedy," Eliot said at a Thursday news conference. "What I say is we share in their heartbreak around this. Police officers, firefighters and even our emergency personnel, you get into this because you want to help, and something went wrong here."

Plush died Tuesday after calling 911 twice between  3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. He said he was stuck inside his van. After a nearly three minute call, the line went dead. The dispatcher tried to call Plush back but it went to voicemail.

"...something went wrong here."

A police car was dispatched but the officers were unable to locate the vehicle since they didn't have a description. Plush called 911 again and got a different dispatcher. Issac says that woman, Amber Smith, did not forward the description of the Honda Odyssey van. Issac hinted there may have been equipment trouble, but police have yet to interview Smith.

Here's the timetable of events police gave Thursday:

  • 3:14 p.m. Plush calls 911 to report he's stuck inside his van. The dispatcher hears loud banging and Plush doesn't respond to her questions. The line goes dead.
  • 3:15 p.m. The dispatcher calls back and gets voicemail.
  • 3:21 p.m. Police are dispatched to an unknown trouble run.
  • 3:26 p.m. Police arrive on the scene and remain for 11 minutes but can't locate the vehicle without a description.
  • 3:35 p.m. Plush calls 911 again and talks to another 911 dispatcher (Amber Smith). The information is not relayed to the officers. Later, a Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy on school grounds says he checked the van but didn't locate Plush.
  • 3:37 p.m. The first call incident is closed.
  • 8:00 p.m. A family friend contacts Plush's parents to say he didn't show up for his tennis match.
  • 8:54 p.m. Plush is found dead inside the van.
  • 8:59 p.m. First responders try but are unable to revive Plush.

"This young man was trapped in the third row bench seat, and it is called asphyxia due to chest compression. We are actively working to identify experts to assist us in this investigation," says Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters in a statement.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil has ordered an administrative investigation to make sure department protocols were followed. A deputy was working an off-duty detail at the school.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley issued this statement:

“Our hearts are heavy this week as we mourn the tragic loss of a child, 16-year old Kyle Plush. I ask that our City join me in praying for the Plush family, Ron, Jill and Ali during this very difficult time.
“The events leading up to Kyle’s death are devastating and also raise concerning questions about our City’s emergency 911 system and police response. While it is unclear if there is wrongdoing by the city in this tragedy, we have a profound responsibility to find out. I applaud Police Chief Eliot Isaac for launching an investigation on the specific issues that happened Tuesday. However, separate from this incident, the problems of management, supervision and technology have been reported at the 911 center for years. Based on problems that I have been made aware of, I have repeatedly requested solutions and I have also lobbied the FCC on technology issues. I have been told by the administration that problems were being resolved through Cincy Stat and other efforts. This tragedy may ultimately suggest the problems have not been resolved or that not enough changes have been made. We owe the Plush family and the public a detailed and comprehensive explanation of everything that has been done, recommendations made and actions taken at the 911 center that could have had any bearing on the practices that may have contributed to this tragedy. We must also be made aware if preventable flaws or failures have worsened emergency situations. As elected officials, we need to be involved directly in evaluating all available information and insist the proper solutions be adopted. Accordingly, I join Vice Mayor Smitherman in asking that the Administration share all memos, reports and relevant emails surrounding the history of the 911/ECC immediately with me and Council. While the police will investigate the actions of the dispatcher and the police response, we must look at the overall history of the ECC and make sure all necessary recommended improvements are made.”

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.