The parents of an Ohio teenager who was crushed to death in a freak minivan accident have agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit they filed against the city of Cincinnati. The city has agreed to pay the parents $6 million and spend an additional $250,000 to make improvements to its 911 emergency call center. Details that emerged in the weeks and months following the tragedy revealed that 911 operators and responding police officers could have done much more to save the boy.
The 16-year-old boy lost his life after becoming trapped behind the third-row seat of his Honda Odyssey minivan. Records indicate that he called 911 operators twice to ask for help. On the second call, he gave the operator his location and a description of his minivan. Help never arrived. Two police officers were dispatched to the boy’s school to look for him, but bodycam footage shows that they did not get out of their vehicle to conduct a thorough search. The boy’s body was eventually discovered by his father who used cellphone data to locate the minivan.
A preventable tragedy
An autopsy concluded that the boy had suffocated. Medical experts hired by his parents say that he would have survived if 911 operators and police officers had worked together to find him. An investigation into the deadly accident revealed that the 911 operator who received the second call did not relay crucial information about the minivan to responding police officers. City officials claimed that the events were unforeseeable and attempted to quash the parent’s wrongful death lawsuit, but their motion to dismiss was denied.
Learning from mistakes
The outcome of this lawsuit shows that city officials can pay a high price when they fail to adequately protect the public, and it also reveals that needed changes are often only made after lives have been lost. It is hoped that improvements made to Cincinnati’s 911 call center will prevent the kind of events that led to this boy’s death, but these changes should have been made long ago.