‘Tell my mom I love her’: Police investigating after Cincinnati teen dies in van
A 911 call taker is under investigation for not relaying details to Cincinnati police officers who were searching for a teen who had called in to report that he was stuck in his van. The teen later died.
Police said Thursday in a news conference that they are investigating the call from 16-year-old Kyle Plush because “something has gone terribly wrong.”
“This young man was crying out for help. We weren’t able to get that information to the officers on scene and we need to find out why,” said police chief Eliot Isaac. “I’m not certain at this point if we’re talking about an equipment malfunction or some type of other user error, possibly, but we’re going to do an investigation to get those answers.”
Plush was in his van outside Seven Hills School reaching for his tennis equipment from the back of his vehicle when, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the third bench seat at the back of his car flipped up and over towards the back hatch. The flip pinned him upside-down beneath the seat.
Knowing his situation was dire, he used the automated assistant on his phone to call 911.
When he called, he told the 911 dispatcher he was trapped in his 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan and could not hear them, and repeatedly called for help, the Washington Post reports.
Plush’s breathing was laboured, and repeatedly asked for police.
The dispatcher asked for his location repeatedly, but the teen said on 911 audio obtained by the Post that he couldn’t hear them.
“I’m in desperate need of help. … I’m going to die here,” Plush said, before asking for help once more time when the call abruptly ended.
Officers responded to the scene at 3:21 p.m. and searched the area near the private school, police said in a statement, but could see neither the teen nor his vehicle.
According to CBS-affiliate KMOV, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy familiar with the area also checked for the vehicle, looking in at least two parking lots.
The dispatcher told the deputy it had been “really hard to hear” and tried calling Plush, but only got his voice mail.
Plush then called a second time, with his voice noticeably faint.
“This is not a joke. This is not a joke. I’m trapped inside a gold Honda Odyssey van,” he says on the 911 call, with banging being heard in the background. “I’m almost dead.”
“I probably don’t have much time left. Tell my mom I love her, if I die.”
That call lasted more than two-and-a-half minutes, CBS reports, but there was no response from the operator on the recording.
It was also in that second call that Plush provided the make, model and colour of the vehicle but officials say that information did not get relayed to officers on scene, according to NBC News.
Later that night, Plush’s mother reported him missing.
“My son never comes home from school and we thought he was at a tennis match and he never came home from school,” she told CNN-affiliate WCPO.
Using a phone locating app, his father arrived at the school parking lot. At around 9 p.m., police received a call Plush was found in the minivan unresponsive.
Emergency officials responded but could not revive the teen, and he was later pronounced dead. A preliminary autopsy determined he died of asphyxia due to chest compression from the bench seat.
“This was a horrific tragedy,” Isaac said. “We share in their heartbreak around this.”
Police say a full investigation is being launched into what happened, including a procedural and technical review of all calls received by the Emergency Communications Section and “associated dispatch recordings related to this incident,” police said.
The dispatcher who took Plush’s second call and reportedly did not relay the information to officers has been placed on administrative leave.
CNN also spoke with Honda, but they said has been no recalls affecting the seats on that make of vehicle in the U.S.
Mayor John Cranley applauded Isaac for launching an investigation, and asked the community to join “in praying for the Plush family, Ron, Jill and Ali during this very difficult time.”
“Our hearts are heavy this week as we mourn the tragic loss of a child,” he said in a statement.
Seven Hills School also released a statement about Plush’s death, saying Plush was a “young man of keen intelligence, good humor, and great courage, and this whole community feels the loss very deeply.”
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