According to an article published by the Associated Press, Curtis Mitchell, a 50-year-old Pittsburg steel worker, died on February 6 after numerous ignored 911 calls. Mitchell had pancreatitis for some time, for which he was hospitalized in January. About a week after his hospital discharge, his abdominal pain returned. This is when the 911 calls began.
Mitchell did not have a car. His abdominal pain progressed and he was in no condition to walk to a hospital or a medial clinic as the snow storm covered Pittsburg under two feet of snow. The first 911 call was made around 2:00 a.m. on February 6, as the storm knocked out the power to his house. At 11:15 a.m., he called 911 yet again:
My stomach man, it’s real messed up. It’s killing me.
As Mitchell and his girlfriend, Sharon Edge, continued to call 911, his pain worsened and he began to develop shortness of breath. At around 8:00 a.m. on February 7, Edge called 911 for the tenth time:
I think my husband’s dead. Oh God, oh God.
After a short while, firefighters arrived at the residence. They found Mitchell unresponsive and without a pulse. Another five hours had passed before officials from the medical examiner’s office took Mitchell’s body out of the house.
According to the article, Pittsburg officials undertook an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Curtis Mitchell’s death in an attempt to reform the city’s emergency response system. The investigation revealed the following:
Details of Mitchell’s calls weren’t passed on from one 911 operator to another as shifts changed, so each call was treated as a new incident.
Twice, ambulances were as close as a quarter-mile from Mitchell’s home but drivers said deep snow prevented the vehicles from crossing a small bridge over railroad tracks to reach him. Mitchell was told each time he’d have to walk through the snow to the ambulances; in neither case did paramedics walk to get him.
Once, an ambulance made it across the bridge and was at the opposite end of the block on the narrow street where the couple lived — a little more than a football field’s length. Again, paramedics didn’t try to walk.
Sharon Edge put this tragedy in prospective when she said:
I’m very angry, because I feel they didn’t do their job like they supposed to. … My man would still be living if they’da did they job like they was supposed to. … They took somebody that I love away.
Contributing author: Jon Stefanuca