Child dies on same night Cleveland’s 911 system breaks down, dispatch records show

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Dispatch recordings show the 911 system broke down the night a child died, so the I-Team is investigating.

Last week, a Cleveland family called 911, saying 15-month old Na’Zir was not breathing. An uncle tried to get an ambulance to an apartment complex on the near west side, but he couldn’t get through to Cleveland EMS.

The 911 call first went to Cuyahoga County dispatch, but when the county transferred the call to city dispatch, the caller heard a recording over and over.

The recording said, “You have reached 911 Cleveland EMS. All operators are currently busy.”

The county dispatcher then tried to ask the caller questions, but the caller said, “I can’t hear both of you.”

The dispatcher responded with, “It’s a recording. We have to talk over it. What’s the address?”

The caller continued with, “My little nephew’s not breathing. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

That went on for more than six minutes. So, the family finally took the child to the hospital, but he ended up dying.

“If they would have gotten there, my grandbaby would still be alive right now today,” said Stephanice Washington, Na’Zir’s grandmother. Washington told us how she held the little boy waiting for help.

“They need to pay more attention when a person is calling saying a 15-month old baby is not breathing. They need to pay more attention,” she said.

The county dispatch finally called a city 911 supervisor and a recording of that conversation refers to problems with the 911 phone system.

“I know you guys are having the same phone issues we are,” the dispatcher said.

The city supervisor then responded with, “Yeah, they’re updating them.”

A year ago, a power unit failed at the Cuyahoga County dispatch center and no one answered in a medical emergency. That night, a man in Parma died.

And, we’ve repeatedly seen delays getting 911 calls answered in Cleveland because of short staffing.

So, the I-Team has asked the city and county for an explanation of what happened this time.

Cuyahoga County spokesman Tyler Sinclair wrote in an email, “The phones issues referenced by the supervisor are routine updates to the system that occur approximately every three to four months.  We believe that the standard maintenance that occurred that night had no effect on this specific call.  However, given the tragic outcome, the county has contacted the vendor to conduct a thorough review to confirm this. That review remains ongoing.”

As of late Monday, the city of Cleveland had not responded to inquiries.

Na’Zir’s family is now demanding to know the full story.

“I can’t sleep at night,” Washington said.

Investigators said it appears the child died from medical issues.

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