A family who lost their 16-year-old son after he suffocated in a minivan at The Seven Hills School after repeated calls to 911 says the City of Cincinnati failed him. Kyle Plush died April 10, 2018. His parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, a former city manager, two dispatchers and two police officers.
"Though we had hoped the city would do the right thing and continue the investigation, nothing happened after that meeting. Our frustration is that as it stands, we can't confirm that a tragedy like Kyle's couldn't happen again," the family said in a statement.
The lawsuit names the City of Cincinnati, former City Manager Harry Black, dispatchers Amber Smith and Stephanie Magee, and police officers Edsel Osborn and Brian Brazile.
The law firm of Gerhardstein & Branch hired outside investigator John Melcher of The Melcher Group. Here are his preliminary findings:
Melcher criticizes the first call taker for:
- Delaying any computer entry for seven minutes
- Failing to give critical information to responders (banging, screaming for help, Plush saying he was going to die)
- Failing to share the mapping detail of where Plush was with the officers
Melcher says this about the second call taker:
- She improperly used the TTY ("talk to you") function for deaf callers which greatly reduces the volume of the caller and silences the call taker
- She didn't play back the call and consequently missed Plush saying he was in a gold Honda Odyssey in the Seven Hills parking lot and didn't hear him saying, "I probably don't have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die."
Melcher also criticizes the two police officers for not using their cell phones to locate Plush and driving into every parking lot except the one the victim was in.
Attorney Jennifer Branch is still waiting for additional records from the city. In the meantime she's asked for a temporary restraining order so Cincinnati doesn't destroy any records related to this case. A hearing will take place this week in front of Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman.
Here is City Manager Patrick Duhaney's response to the lawsuit:
"The City of Cincinnati continues to express its condolences to the Plush family for the tragic loss of their son, Kyle. Every day since April 10, 2018, the City has worked to evaluate, review and enhance the ways in which we respond to emergencies. This includes adding Smart911 and RapidSOS technologies at the Emergency Communications Center, improving the ability of E911 Operators to locate callers in distress, and increasing staffing at the ECC. As a result, the ECC exceeds state and national standards for 9-1-1 call answering. We have developed and implemented these changes in a transparent and collaborative manner.
Our first responders, both sworn and civilian, have dedicated their lives to protecting the public and are committed to faithfully executing their duties.
We were notified today that the Plush family has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati. The City Solicitor’s Office will defend both the City and its employees and officials named in the suit. Given that there is active litigation, there will be no further comment from the Administration at this time."