City Probe Blames Human Error in Ariel Russo 911 Response Delay
UPPER WEST SIDE — A city investigation found that human error caused the EMS delay that may have played a part in 4-year-old Ariel Russo's death this June after she was hit by an SUV on an Upper West Side sidewalk.
Russo was walking to preschool with her grandmother when 17-year-old Franklin Reyes, who was fleeing police, lost control of his SUV and drove onto the sidewalk, killing her and seriously injuring her grandmother.
It took four minutes for EMS to dispatch an ambulance to the scene, a delay her parents, Sofia and Alan Russo, blamed for her death. It took eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene, according to the investigation report.
The toddler, who had a local street named after her, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Department of Investigation probe, which drew on hundreds of hours of interviews at the city's Emergency Medical Dispatch Center in Brooklyn, blamed dispatcher Edna Pringle and her supervisor, Stephen Valladares, for causing the delay.
"The evidence showed no technical issues with the system on June 4th," said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.
Though police relayed the information to the Emergency Medical Services Computer Aided Dispatch System, four minutes went by before it was recognized, the probe found.
"[Pringle,] who asserts that the call was not there or she did not see it, went on a break while the notification about the Ariel incident was still pending," the report said.
A relief EMT, Vadim Lopatine, then filled in for her, and "acted on the pending call that was related to the Ariel Russo incident within seconds," the report said.
By the time Pringle's supervisor saw the unattended call in his system and went down the hallway to investigate, the relief EMT had already stepped in, the investigation showed.
Pringle also used a cell phone several times throughout her shift, though not around the time of the Russo incident, the report showed.
The dispatcher's union, Local 2507, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
“I’m haunted by the fact that she was alive … and probably would have been alive today had an ambulance been dispatched in a timely fashion," Sofia Russo told reporters when the investigation was launched in July.
The Russo's lawyers Sanford Rubenstein and Scott Rynecki did not respond to requests for comment. The Russo family is suing the city for $40 million.
Reyes' is charged with manslaughter, assault, driving without a license, leaving the scene of the accident and fleeing police.