School death prompts LAFD inquiry into emergency response
Los Angeles Fire Department officials said Friday that they were investigating why it took ambulance crews roughly 15 minutes to arrive at a Wilmington middle school, where a teenager had collapsed on a soccer field and was pronounced dead a short time later.
“There was a response; it was to the wrong address,” Battalion Chief Armando Hogan, a spokesman for the Fire Department, told The Times. He said that it was not correct to refer to what happened as a “delayed response.”
Hogan said several calls were made to report the incident that occurred Sunday afternoon during a soccer match at Wilmington Middle School, but “there was a little bit of a challenge getting the address of the location of the school.”
“It was one of those situations where … you may not know that particular location,” Hogan said.
An LAFD source familiar with the incident told The Times that during one 911 call, the dispatcher spoke to a boy who repeatedly gave the correct name of the school. But the dispatcher wanted a specific address for the campus, which the boy was unable to provide, the source said. The dispatcher then sent rescuers to the wrong location.
At least one additional 911 call came in, and when firefighters at the department call center realized the rescuers had been sent to the wrong address, they dispatched another crew to the school where the victim was in cardiac arrest, the source said.
In addition to the alleged delay in responding, fire officials are investigating whether the dispatcher gave CPR instructions to the boy while fire crews were en route, as required by department protocol.
The investigation comes as the LAFD is under scrutiny for failing to meet national standards for processing emergency calls and is suffering recurring breakdowns in its 30-year-old computerized dispatch system.
A Times investigation in May found that the dispatch center falls far behind a national standard that rescue units be alerted within one minute on 90% of 911 calls. Last year, the LAFD met the one-minute standard 15% of the time, down from 38% five years ago, the analysis found.
Hogan said the Fire Department was committed to providing the best possible service to the public and had a record of responding to at least 1,000 calls day. He emphasized that fire officials were taking the investigation of the Wilmington incident “very seriously” and said more details would be released as they become known.
“We are deeply concerned and will continue to look in these events,” Hogan said. “Our aim is to be transparent.”
-- Ann M. Simmons and Robert J. Lopez