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Human Error Blamed in Fatal NYC EMS Delay

Human error - not a computer glitch - was to blame for a four-minute delay in an ambulance reaching 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was fatally struck by a speeding SUV on the Upper West Side, the Department of Investigation reported Thursday.

A 911 dispatcher at the city's Emergency Medical Dispatch Center in Brooklyn failed to notice an incoming report of the accident, investigators said.

An EMS lieutenant, her supervisor, also failed to notice the incoming call even though it "was visible on the screen for approximately four minutes," the DOI report said.

Ariel's mother, Sophia, in tears, called on the Manhattan district attorney to determine whether the dispatcher "should be tried criminally."

"It breaks my heart to know that the advanced life support that she needed for her passageways to breathe in that moment was delayed four and a half minutes because someone didn't do their job," she told reporters.

"My daughter was depending on you," she said of the dispatcher, identified as Edna Pringle. "Where were you? Why didn't you see it? Why didn't you pick it up?"

The tragedy unfolded June 4 when an unlicensed teen driver, fleeing police, mowed the little girl down and seriously injured her grandmother at 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

It took four minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched and nearly four additional minutes for it to reach the stricken girl, who died shortly after being taken to St. Luke's Hospital.

The DOI said Pringle denied to investigators that the accident report came into the Brooklyn center shortly after Ariel was struck. But investigators said she just missed it, went on a break and logged off the system.

EMS Lt. Stephen Valladares, who was on duty and seated next to Pringle's desk, told investigators he was unaware of any problems with the Russo call until the next day. He said he was busy with paperwork when the call came in.

A relief EMT, Vadim Lopatine, took over for Pringle and dispatched an ambulance.

Investigators said Pringle had used her cellphone at least five times before the Ariel call, in violation of the rules. She denied using the phone, but subpoenaed phone records showed this was not true, investigators said.

Pringle was slapped with an undisclosed disciplinary measure a day after the incident.

Ariel's parents said after the tragedy that they would sue the city for $40 million.

Ariel's death came amid a flurry of reports of delays in the city's emergency-response system. But the DOI report said there were no technical "outages" or other problems with the 911 system at the time of the accident.



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