The death of a 6-month-old child who died last month after his babysitter was repeatedly put on hold by 911 has been ruled accidental, according to a Collin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report.
The medical examiner concluded that Brandon Alex died of “positional asphyxia that compromised his ability to breathe,” the report said.
“He was fund upside down, head on floor, hips and legs extended slightly forward, and his back against the extended part of the day bed,” the report said. “Brandon’s truck was between the wall and an arm of the day bed. Face was forward and well exposed.”
Brandon’s babysitter, Michaelle Cohen, told WFAA in a prior interview that he fell off a day bed and that she found him on the floor.
The autopsy found a “small faint” bruise to his head, but no evidence of trauma to his brain. There was no other evidence of injury either, the report said.
That night, March 11, more than 400 callers ended up on hold for an average of 38 minutes. It was a perfect storm driven by T-Mobile glitches, an understaffed 911 call center and an outdated 911 infrastructure.
The day after WFAA first reported the news of Brandon Alex’s death, T-Mobile sent its top engineers to Dallas. T-Mobile has since made several important tweaks to its system, including turning off a safety feature that caused duplicate calls to the 911 call center whenever a caller didn’t connect with an operator.
The City has since beefed up its call center, bringing dozens of police officers in to help the exhausted call takers.
On the night Brandon died, Cohen was taking care of Brandon while Bridget Alex, who says she adopted him, attended a funeral for her nephew.
Cohen has said that she was put on hold three times – the longest time for 30 minutes.
“It just looked like he was sleeping really hard,” she says. “It didn’t seem like he had any other injuries. He was just breathing really light.”
Cohen called 911. When she was put on hold, she hung up after less than a minute and called back. She was on hold for more than eight minutes when she decided to hang up and call Alex to let her know what was going on. She called 911 again. She was hold for more than 30 minutes.
While she was on hold, she says she was doing CPR on Brandon and praying that Brandon would be okay.
“I just felt like everything I did wasn’t enough,” Cohen said. “I was so frustrated. I was crying and I was mad.”
Cohen never made contact with a 911 operator. Alex drove home and took Brandon to the hospital.
“I understand all jobs have a short staff, but that’s not an excuse for 911,” Cohen said in the prior interview. “I can understand at Walmart. I can understand at the dollar store. I can understand anywhere else, but not 911.”
It’s not the first time that staffing in 911 has fallen to unacceptable levels – and not the first time that Dallas police and city officials have promised to fix it.
Dallas police beefed up the staffing of the 911 call center after the 2012 murder of Deanna Cook. She was strangled by her husband while she was on the phone with a 911 operator. Her death revealed that the 911 center was dramatically understaffed and couldn’t keep up with the call load.