DC 911 call sat in ‘limbo’: Ambulance delayed 11 minutes after man collapsed on street

A man is dead after collapsing in Northwest D.C. — and an ambulance was delayed in responding due to continued dispatching issues at the city’s 911 call center, according to a safety advocate who tracks the agency.

Just before 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, 69-year-old Jesse Kyle collapsed on the ground on the 800 block of Kennedy Street NW. After his friend initially called 911, it took 11 minutes before an ambulance was sent.

Kyle’s friend spoke with Dave Statter of Statter 911, who reported the delay. The friend, who was traveling with Kyle, actually dialed 911 twice.

The first call was sent to a nurse triage line for lower priority calls. The call-taker realized the mistake and tried to make it higher priority, but did not follow the right protocol.

“It was supposed to go to a nurse triage line, possibly, but it got lost somewhere in between, it never went to either spot. The man actually called back a second time, about four minutes later,” Statter told WTOP. “It still never got a response, it finally took a third call from a woman who was passing by to get 911 to send D.C. Fire and EMS.”

District officials said that the correct protocol was not followed and they have done retraining on when to send to the nurse triage line.

“This call never got to dispatch for 11 minutes, it sat in, kind of, limbo. It was really a lost call,” said Statter.

The Office of Unified Communications, which handles 911 calls and dispatches in the District, has dealt with a litany of issues. In the past four months, they have sent first responders to the wrong address during calls where people died, including when a newborn girl was in cardiac arrest.

Last year, a scathing report found the call center struggled to dispatch crews to correct locations and failed to meet national standards. A follow-up audit from earlier this month said the center had made only minimal progress in rectifying its errors.

“They seem to be moving backwards a bit,” said Statter. “This is not just six calls this year, but five of them occurred in the last six months where people have died and there was a delay caused by D.C. 911. There are a total of 10 that I’ve uncovered over the last three years.”

In a statement to Statter 911, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart said, “I am confident from immediately after the call and succeeding days we located everywhere where we departed from protocol, or had an issue from this call, and have identified appropriate fixes and put those in place.”

WTOP has reached out to Mayor Muriel Bowser for comment.

The D.C. Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will hold an oversight hearing Sept. 28 on the District’s 911 operations.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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