PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (KCTV) – Cathryn McClelland was a loving mother and nurse. She was just 41-years old when she collapsed inside her Prairie Village home with her young kids. Her husband was working on a construction project in another state.
Her 8-year old son, Joel, grabbed the phone and called 911 for help. What happened next is now the focus of a lawsuit. It says the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and the Kansas City Fire Department failed the family by not trusting the child knew his address and waiting too long to dispatch help.
Medical records show the young mother suffered cardiac arrest. Her heart rhythm was restored but she suffered a lack of lack of oxygen to the brain. Her family eventually removed her from life support and donated her organs. Cathryn was pronounced dead on July 22, 2019. Her family donated her organs.
KCTV5 obtained the 911 recording for help.
It begins with 8-year old Joel explaining the situation.
JOEL: Okay, so I’m only a child with my little sister and my mom is lying on the ground and my dad is out of town
KCPD: Do you know your address?
JOEL: Let me go outside. Prairie Village, Belinder Avenue.
9347. I mean 7347!
KCPD: Let’s get you over to ambulance… Stay on the line don’t hang up…
The legal team for the McClelland family calculates it took more than 10 minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched despite the child providing the address about a minute in. KCTV5 actually calculates the call to JOCO MED- ACT closer to the 13-minute mark.
KCTV5 reached out to the parties named in the lawsuit which include the mayor, police, fire and individuals involved in the call. All declined to speak citing policy to not discuss matters under litigation.
The mobile call for help in Prairie Village, Kansas bounced to a Kansas City, Missouri cell tower because that was the closest tower. That tower routed the call to KCPD.
There’s instant confusion because the KCPD mapping software reveals a different location for the wireless call from what Joel gave.
It shows it’s also in Prairie Village but on a different street.
A focus of the lawsuit is that call takers didn’t immediately send help in the correct direction and decided to firm up address. Minutes roll by as they track down an adult’s phone number and eventually call the husband of Cathryn, Frank McClelland.
KCPD: This is the Kansas City Missouri police department…who am I speaking to?
Frank: Frank McClellend
Frank: Yes. What’s wrong?
KCPD: I don’t know. He said his mom fell down on the ground. She is laying there. She is not awake.
We’ve got him on the line we just needed to verify the address.
Frank: Oh, Jesus!
Numerous call takers and dispatchers are involved in the call. At times, call takers discuss how to transfer the call.
KCPD: The address is going to be 7347 Belinder and that is in Prairie Village, Kansas
KCFD: 7347 Belinder. B-E, spell that for me?
KCFD: Okay and have you guys already gave the call over?
KCPD: Uh, yeah. I was on the line with EMS there. They are on the line with the child.
KCFD: No, I’m asking since it’s in Prairie Village have you already?
KCPD: No, I haven’t done anything
KCFD: And you are calling from PD?
KCPD: Yes. Do you guys have a phone number for their EMS?
KCPD: Let me see if I’ve got… I don’t know if we have their EMS
KCFD: Okay… hmmm.
KCPD: I just have their PD line
KCFD: We do too… We’lll- let me see. No, we don’t. We will probably send it over
*unintelligible buttons pushed*
Yeah, we’ll probably send it over to Kansas, to Leawood, I believe.
The collection of call takers and dispatchers remain calm but the stew of people involved appear to create confusion.
At one point a person from KCFD begins her call to Prairie Village Police muted. She then shares an incorrect address and incorrectly refers to the dad and husband as “Joel.”
Prairie Village Police: Hello?
KCFD: Oh, Sorry muted!
Okay. This is Nicole with Kansas City Fire.
KCFD: We have a call. 1747 Belinder. Do you guys have that?
PVP: 1747 Belinder is not in Prairie Village.
KCFD: What address did they give you Brittney?
PVP: And what was the?
KCFD: We have a child caller on the phone it sounds like might be, his mom’s passed out.
So, we don’t know if she’s like passed out or deceased.
Husband is supposed to be Joel
Family praises first responders, horrified with 911
“Getting them there, that’s it that’s it! Once they were notified, they were there in a short amount of time,” Frank McClelland said.
McClelland began questioning the timeline of when help arrived almost immediately. Doctors wanted to know how long Cathryn was without oxygen. McClelland says listening to the call was crushing.
“When I listened to the call, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My son had called and within a short amount of time. He provided information to get help to his mother,” McClelland said, ”He was doing everything he could to convince them. He was calm he was articulate. I’ve told him since that time. He’s my hero.”
The attorney representing the family considers the 911 call shocking and says there must be accountability.
“You would think for 911 in a centralized system- that supposed to be set up. The people answering those phone calls including those from children who need help for parents would be trained on how to deal with these calls!” attorney Brian McCallister said.