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Man Sues City Over Response Delay, Wife’s Drowning

The husband of a woman who drowned in a vehicle accident last January in Little Rock (Ark.) has filed a lawsuit claiming the 911 calltaker failed to properly notify police or fire units of the incident, and also that she had a troubled history at another agency that led to her being fired. The lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court by Dayong Yang on behalf of his wife Jinglei and 5 year-old son who survived with brain injuries. The lawsuit names former Little Rock dispatcher Candace Mddleton, the city’s police and fire chiefs, and the comm center director. Police acknowledge that Middleton received a 911 call reporting that a vehicle had plunged into a pond, and that she notified the city’s EMS service. However, they admit, she did not notify the police or fire department. As a result, there was a 20-minute delay in launching a water rescue for Yang’s wife. The lawsuit claims Middleton had 15 complaints over 12 years while working as a dispatcher for the city of Benton. She received discipline ranging from days-off to demotion and eventually to termination. When she applied to Little Rock for a dispatcher’s job, she mentioned her termination in the application, and the city of Benton provided Little Rock with negative job reference, the lawsuit notes. Despite her past, she was hired in March 2012. City officials says Middleton resigned her position in June. The lawsuit documents a 13-minute 911 call that Yang’s wife made from inside the car, ending with the apparently sounds of water filling the vehicle. The EMS unit arrived at almost the same moment. In the 20 minutes it took to begin a water rescue, during which police and firefighters prevented citizens from performing any rescue of Yang, the lawsuit states. Download (pdf) the full lawsuit for more details, including the requested damages. [Editor—Besides the issues of a prompt response and rescue, the incident again raises the issue of how to handle vehicle-in-water incidents, such as the one last month in Arlington Heights, Ill.)

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