Mayor Mike Rawlings was out front promising action Wednesday, one day after WFAA revealed that a six-month-old infant died while his babysitter was on hold with 911 for more than 30 minutes.
Rawlings was joined at a press conference Wednesday afternoon by City Manager T.C. Broadnax and high-ranking T-Mobile officials.
Since last fall, the City's been having issues with a T-Mobile glitch that creates “ghost calls” that record as 911 hang ups. Callers end up getting put on hold as operators try to catch up. WFAA has been reporting on the on-going problems for weeks.
“We have had long and frank conversations about this,” Rawlings said. “This is the number one priority right now as a city.”
The press conference took a dramatic turn when David Taffet, a Dallas Voice writer, confronted Rawlings about the death of his husband, Brian Cross.
Cross died Monday night, March 6, a night that hundreds of 911 callers were put on hold. Taffet says he tried to call 911, but the call dropped. He called again, but was put on hold for 20 minutes.
“Those 20 minutes were the longest 20 minutes of my life,” he said.
By the time paramedics got there, it was too late.
Rawlings promised him that city officials would get to the bottom of it.
The issue reached a state of emergency last Saturday, the night Brandon Alex died. More than 400 callers were put on hold an average of 38 minutes. After WFAA contacted the city about Brandon’s death, Broadnax reached out directly to the CEO of T-Mobile. He dispatched a team to Dallas on Wednesday.
“I take full responsibility for the day-to-day operations of this city and our 911 center,” Broadnax said.
He said he thought that they had resolved the issue back in January. It clearly wasn’t.
T-Mobile Vice President David Carey said that his team would stay on the ground in Dallas until the problem is identified and fixed. He said he had no idea when that will be.
“Clearly we are seeing a set of circumstances in Dallas which is unique,” said Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer.
Both city officials and T-Mobile say that Dallas’ aging 911 infrastructure could be playing a part in the issue.
City and T-Mobile officials are encouraging 911 callers to stay on the line rather than hanging up. When they hang up, it puts them at the back of the line and exacerbates the call load. City officials have been bringing in additional staff on overtime to try to keep up with the call load.
Brandon’s babysitter made the first call at 5:55 p.m. It lasted 55 seconds. She made the second call at 5:57 p.m. It lasted eight minutes and 40 seconds. She called for a third time at 6:11 pm. She stayed on the line for 31 minutes and 35 seconds.
City officials said dispatchers did try to return each of the calls, but could not connect to the caller. At this point, officials said that they could not connect the child’s death to the T-Mobile “ghost call issue.”
Rawlings spoke by phone to Brandon's mother Wednesday afternoon.
“I talked to her and I said my heart is broken for the loss of a loved one and I'm sorry for you as well,” he said. “It’s not acceptable that this happened and we’re going to make sure that it never happens again.”
His mother says it's too little, too late for her son.
“I'm so hurt,” she said. “Like I thought 911 one was supposed to be there to help us, but in this case I lost my son.”