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Woman dies after son calls 911; dispatchers think it's a prank


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I can't believe how irresponsibly this person behaved. I'm even more astounded that "...the 911 operator will be disciplined, but because of her years of service she will not be fired."

Woman dies after son calls 911; dispatchers think it's a prank

An investigation is underway in Detroit after a six-year-old boy called 911 to get help for his mom, and the operator acted as if it were a joke.

Detroit NBC Affiliate WDIV reports that six-year-old Robert Turner called 911 on February 20. He thought his mother, 46-year-old Sherrill Turner, had passed out. She was later found dead.

911 tapes detail the call, where the boy tells a female operator that his mom had passed out. The operator demands to speak to an adult before sending police.

The boy eventually hung up and called back a short time later. This time, the same operator warns the boy that he could get in trouble for making a prank call to 911. The boy said police didn't arrive until three hours later and found his mother dead.

The boy is living with family members, who are now pursuing a lawsuit.

Officials said the 911 operator will be disciplined, but because of her years of service she will not be fired.

Police continue to investigate.

Watch video footage re the story here.

Procedures for 911 calls

(Update: Kalamazoo, April 7, 2006, 5:28 p.m.)

A Detroit woman died after a 911 dispatcher wouldn't send immediate help because she thought the call was a prank. The caller was the victim’s six-year-old son.

24 Hour News 8 looked at what West Michigan dispatchers do to make sure this kind of mistake does not happen.

All of the dispatchers we talked to said they never take a chance.

"There's just no chance, no matter the age of the child or the caller, you err on the side of caution. In the case of a small child, you wonder why they have the phone in the first place, so we're always going to send officers,†said Lt. Steve Reifert of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

Police say they get more hang-ups than prank calls, and most dispatchers send help while trying to call back and get someone on the phone to tell what's going on.

Dispatchers told 24 Hour News 8 most kids don't call back again after police and emergency crews actually show up. The authorities then explain to the kids why such calls are a bad idea.

Anyone who abuses emergency phone services deliberately can be charged criminally - a misdemeanor the first time and a felony for a second offense.

More video here.

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