911 mixup delays response, man dies on LI

November 30, 2010 4:18:34 AM PST
A tragic mistake by a 911 dispatcher sent rescuers to the wrong home as a man died on Long Island.

"I can't help thinking that if everything had worked the way it was supposed to, that maybe the events that unfolded that night might be different," Sherri Ross said.

Sherri Ross will never know the answer to that question.

Her husband, Lanny, died before her eyes earlier this month, as she frantically called 911 for help.

Caller: 419 Montauk Highway, Wainscott
Dispatcher 1: What's the problem?
Caller: I don't know I think my husband's dying.
Dispatcher 1: (unintelligible)
Caller: I think my husband's having a heart attack
Dispatcher 1: 119 Montauk Highway?
Caller: 419 Montauk highway
Dispatcher 1: 419?
Caller: Yes

"Even two minutes can seem like a half hour when you're waiting for help to come," Ross said.

In this case, a dispatcher's mistake made the time stretch even longer.

Police and volunteer medics were sent to the wrong place as Sherri grew more and more desperate.

Caller: Is the ambulance coming? I need help!
Dispatcher 2: PD is having trouble finding the house, going to try to get a description for you put it over the air.
Rescuer: That'd be great, thanks so much.
Dispatcher 1: What's your house look like they're trying to find your house.
Dispatcher 2: Can't find the house.

Dispatchers actually sent the rescue crews to 419 Montauk Highway in Amagansett.

Almost 6 miles away from the same address in Wainscot, Lanny Ross lay dying.

Within the town of East Hampton it turns out there actually are at least three different 419 Montauk Highways; in Wainscott, Amagansett, and Montauk.

The dispatcher never verified with Sherri Ross specifically where she lived, until over eight minutes into the call.

Dispatcher 1: What's the nearest street on the corner to you?

Caller: Town Line, Town Line and Sayres Path we're at?

Dispatcher 1: Town Line and Sayres Path?

Dispatcher 2: Oh **expletive**

Dispatcher 2: The cross street is Town Line and Sayres Path

Dispatchers rushed to redirect the crews to the right location.

They performed CPR on scene for a half hour, but by then, Lanny Ross was dead.

Paul Rickenbach is the Mayor of East Hampton, and has personally apologized to Lanny's wife.

"You have to learn from your mistakes. We live in the real world, and that's where you are today," Mayor Rickenbach said.

From the time the ambulance was dispatched, he says it took 11 minutes to arrive at the right house.

Suffolk County's standard is nine minutes.

Now, town officials have launched a full policy review and Sherri doesn't know quite what to think about the dispatchers who took that call.

"In some respects I feel sorry for them, because they made a terrible, terrible error that night," Ross said.

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