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‘He’s going to die here:’ Ohio dispatcher suspended for refusing to send help to stroke victim

CINCINNATI — A dispatcher refused to send emergency help to an Ohio man experiencing an apparent stroke the night of Jan. 12. He ended up dying, and the next day, there was a new 911 call from his neighbor, demanding emergency services at least help remove the body from their apartment complex.

According to WCPO, College Hill City Manager Patrick Duhaney called the incident “a serious neglect of duty” in an email Monday, March 2 to the College Hill City Council, describing in detail the potentially life-saving steps the dispatcher failed to take that night.

“What took place on the night of Jan. 12 is nothing short of a tragedy,” he wrote. “It’s unclear if the individual would have lived or died, but the actions of this call-taker undermined the possibility of a positive outcome in this situation.”

The caller was not the man experiencing the stroke, Duhaney wrote. It was a neighbor concerned about his health — asking emergency services to intervene.

Per Duhaney’s email, the neighbor quickly provided a precise location and specifically mentioned a stroke, which should have been immediate grounds for the call-taker to dispatch an EMT. The neighbor added, “He is getting worse and worse,” “He’s had a stroke,” “He has a stroke and has another one coming,” “He’s gonna die,” and, “He’s going to die here.”

But WCPO reported the call-taker refused to send help unless directly connected to the patient. When the neighbor said the man might not answer questions or request help himself, the call-taker told them there was nothing police could do.

“If he doesn’t want help, they won’t do anything,” the call-taker told the neighbor, according to Duhaney’s account of the recording. “He has to want to be helped. There is nothing the fire department or police officers can do. They can’t force themselves on him.”

The neighbor eventually hung up. No help was ever sent to the address, according to WCPO.

“The next day, another 9-1-1 call was received from this apartment complex,” Duhaney wrote. “The caller indicated that the individual who suffered the medical emergency the previous night had passed away. They also requested assistance with removal of the body because we ‘wouldn’t come and help yesterday.’”

Duhaney said the call-taker was suspended without pay.

He disclosed the incident to the College Hill City Council a few days after appointing a new director to lead the Emergency Communications Center, which became the subject of overwhelming public scrutiny after the 2018 death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush.

In April 2018, police were sent to Seven Hills School, and told a female caller was stuck in a van. The GPS coordinates on that call were within feet of where Plush would be found dead hours later. Plush called 911, aware he was in trouble, but he struggled to communicate with the operator. Over the course of a three-minute call in which he gasped and cried repeatedly for help, he relayed that he was trapped inside his car in the parking lot.

A computer-aided dispatch report contained latitude-longitude coordinates on that call. Notes in that report indicated the call may have come from the “thrift store parking lot across the street.” Those coordinates were within feet of where Plush was trapped inside his Honda minivan, dying. A unit with two officers was assigned to respond and reported finding nothing.

Plush ended up suffocating.

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