Los Angeles News

Teen dies after LAFD says callers gave wrong address

Friday, December 21, 2012

An investigation is underway after the death of a teen on a school soccer field. It took emergency crews longer than usual to get to the scene, and the teen's family wants to know why.

The Los Angeles Fire Department held a news conference Friday about the incident in what they say was an effort to be transparent with the public. Dispatch was inundated with calls about the emergency on Sunday, but they said several callers gave the wrong address.

The correct address was the soccer field at Wilmington Middle School where 16-year-old Jesus Alfonso Zambrano had collapsed. The Lakewood High School junior complained he wasn't feeling well before he fainted.

"As soon as that happened, I dialed 911 to try and get somebody, or at least to try and get somebody to help me over the phone as well," said Zambrano's coach, Nelson Rivas.

Rivas called 911 at 3:07 p.m.

"I told them that we were at Wilmington Middle School," Rivas said.

Crews didn't arrive until 3:23 p.m. -- 15 minutes after the call was placed and more than double the average response time.

Fire crews were originally dispatched so far from the school that a separate group had to be dispatched once they got the correct address.

"This was not an issue of resources not being available, this was an unfortunate incident where resources were dispatched to the wrong location," said Los Angeles Fire Deputy Chief David Yamahata.

Fire officials admit they were almost immediately told Zambrano was at Wilmington Middle School. If you simply type that into Google, you get a response within seconds. Investigators are now looking at whether any dispatchers even tried that.

Fire officials are now reexamining their response policies.

"When folks are calling in to 911, there's a tremendous challenge," said Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief Armando Hogan. "...What we're looking at in this case is: what can we do better to not only educate the public when they call in, but more importantly, where are we when we're making those phone calls?"

The coroner has not yet released an official cause of death. The fire department says they will eventually release the 911 calls with the incorrect addresses and along with more information about treating of the patient, but only after their investigation is completed.

In the meantime, Zambrano's father believes his son would be alive today if rescuers arrived earlier. The boy's family is now gathering nightly to mourn his loss.

"We just basically felt helpless," said Rivas. "Those 15, 17 minutes felt like an eternity for us."

The family is considering hiring a lawyer and pursuing legal remedies.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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