An Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation after a dispatcher seemingly failed to respond quickly and adequately to a call that a 7-year-old was drowning.
Kaitlynn Breann Garcia drowned at Lake Eucha Pool in Delaware County, Okla., on June 15.
Bystanders called 911 as soon as they realized she was underwater; when they pulled her out she was turning blue. But the dispatch officer took over three minutes to call an ambulance, according to Sheriff Harlan Moore of the Delaware County Sheriff’s office.
A tape of the phone call, which was obtained by ABC News, reveals a woman frantically telling the dispatcher that Garcia was not breathing, and the dispatcher assuring her they were going to get someone to the scene as soon as possible. The ambulance is dialed approximately three and a half minutes into the phone call.
Mike Shambaugh, the chief police officer of the Jay Police Department in Oklahoma, told ABC News: “The whole issue here is response time and paging out emergency personnel. If you get a call you should be paged out in less than 60 seconds.”
Moore has ordered an independent investigation into the incident.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life,” Moore told ABC News. “I want to know as a sheriff what happened over there.”
The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office is conducting the investigation. Rogers Hughes, the assistant district attorney for the office, said he could not comment on the investigation because it’s ongoing.
Shambaugh also said there have been several other incidents in the county over the past year where there was either a slow response time or an ambulance did not show up, an issue that was the focus of a commissioner’s meeting yesterday.
MindyJo Hinman, Kaitlynn’s mother, told ABC News she was not with her daughter at the time of the accident, because she was attending a party with her aunt and uncle. When Kaitlynn’s aunt and uncle called Hinman, she immediately drove to the hospital.
Hinman said she and Kaitlynn’s father arrived at the hospital first, followed shortly by Kaitlynn’s aunt and uncle. The ambulance, she said, came 15 minutes after that. Shortly after the ambulance arrived, they told her Kaitlynn would not survive. Hinman is convinced Kaitlynn was already dead when she arrived at the hospital.
Hinman subsequently listened to the 911 call. Although she said she cannot decisively say those few minutes would have saved Kaitlynn, she was “very disturbed” by the call.
“He hesitated and blundered and fumbled to save my baby,” she said. “This man is supposed to have years of experience being a 911 dispatcher. Listening to that phone call he was a very inexperienced person.”
Hinman said she is seeking legal counsel, but has not taken any action yet.
According to its website, Lake Eucha is a 31-acre picnic area with a swimming pool. It is the only state park where groups can reserve the entire area.
Hinman said she had no idea the pool there did not have lifeguards. Her daughter had broken her wrist a little over a month ago, she said, and had just gotten her cast off two days ago. Kaitlynn could not swim well to begin with, so Hinman said she told Kaitlynn’s aunt to make sure she did not spend too much time in the water.
“This entire situation could have been prevented,” she said.