This article was originally published on Nov. 25, 2010.
About 13 minutes after Sherri Ross dialed 911, ambulance personnel arrived at her house in Wainscott, where her husband Lanny Ross was dying of a heart attack on Nov. 14.
A recording of the 911 call, obtained by East Hampton Patch, revealed East Hampton Village dispatchers didn't realize they had sent EMTs, an ambulance, and town police officers to the wrong address for over nine minutes into the call.
Dispatchers received the call at 8:14 p.m., according to their records. Within the first few seconds of the call, Sherri Ross told the dispatcher her exact location. "I have an emergency — 419 Montauk Highway, Wainscott," she said.
"What's the problem?" the dispatcher, whose name has not been released, asked her.
"I don't know, I think my husband's dying."
"You think what?" the dispatcher said.
"I think my husband's having a heart attack," Ross replied.
The dispatcher's response was: "119 Montauk Highway?" She corrects him. "419?" he said. She said, yes.
The harrowing call is without a doubt an emotional one: sounds of a man taking his last breaths, Ross' 16 year old daughter screaming in the background, and Ross, at times in hysterics, looking for an ambulance to pull into her driveway.
"Ma'am, I need you to calm down. We're going to see if we can get some information, see if we can help him, okay? What I need you to do right now is calm down, OK?," the dispatcher said.
He asked for her name, her phone number, and her husband's age, all of which she provided. "But, please, I need an ambulance. He's 51 ... he has a heart condition. He's dying," she said.
She explained, when asked, that her husband had no pulse and was gasping for breath. She continually asked the dispatcher if he sent help. "Are they coming now?"
Kenneth Collum, the coordinator of the communications department, explained last week that the dispatcher did in fact make a mistake with inputting the address into the software system. Dispatchers sent the East Hampton Volunteer Ambulance Association to 419 Montauk Highway, East Hampton, instead of sending the Bridgehampton Fire Department ambulance to the correct address in Wainscott.
The dispatcher stayed on the line with Ross as his colleagues dispatched the East Hampton ambulance crew and called to send the police.
Two minutes into the call, East Hampton ambulance squad five, which was on duty that night, was dispatched at 8:16 p.m. Dispatchers provided them with a cross street of Spring Close Highway.
The dispatcher on the phone with Ross continued to gather information as to how long her husband might have been having symptoms of a heart attack and his medical history.
"I told you that already," she said "He's had a heart attack, he's had two stents put in. Is the ambulance coming? I need help!" Ross told her daughter to go downstairs and unlock the front door.
The dispatcher tried to get her to calm down again, to which she replied, "My husband is dying, why am I wasting my time talking to you?"
She answered more questions, including that her husband was barely breathing, while another dispatcher, a female one listening in, called East Hampton Town police dispatchers, who dispatch the officers based on the village dispatcher's information. "... we're still trying to determine whether or not he's breathing. The caller is hysterical. So, it sounds like it could be a real bad one."
Around 8:18 p.m., the dispatcher asked Ross if her driveway is marked clearly. A sign out front clearly demarks her address. He continued to question her about what led up to the onset of the heart attack. "Did you find him like this?"
Four and a half minutes have gone by since the call started. The dispatcher now asked for Ross to time her husband's breathing. Ross was worried about the ambulance finding her, but the dispatcher said, "You don't have to look for the ambulance. We need to help your husband right now, OK?"
"I don't think he's breathing," she told him. As the dispatcher questioned her more, the recording picks up the female dispatcher speaking to EMTs, who have called in for more specifics on the address. She reported to them, "PD is having trouble finding the house. We're going to try to get a description for you and put it over the air, so keep a listen, OK?"
The dispatcher on with Ross then asked her for a description of her house. Her answer is inaudible on the recording. He told her to send her someone to the end of the driveway. She sent her daughter.
According to dispatch records, the dispatcher began to instruct Ross in cardiopulmonary resuscitation about 7 minutes into the call at 8:21 p.m.
Almost simultaneously, another male dispatcher is heard broadcasting to EMTs over their frequency. "On the in-house map, it looks like it's going to be between Skimhampton and . . .," another street that is inaudible on the recording. No one yet realized, the Rosses aren't in East Hampton at all.
There is a brief discussion between the dispatchers listening in on the call about what has come up on the 911 enhancement screen, which is supposed to use the caller's phone number to confirm the address. The female dispatcher simply reported it said, "419 Montauk Highway."
Then, she said, "Capt., Capt., they can't find the house."
The dispatcher on the phone with Ross then asked, "What's the nearest corner to you?"
Ross immediately said, "Townline and Sayre's Path."
"Oh, shit," the female dispatcher said.
The first responder, the ambulance, and town police were more than five miles from Ross' house. Dispatchers rerouted them. They also contacted another East Hampton ambulance that was on Montauk Highway headed back to East Hampton after dropping a patient off at Southampton Hospital. It proceeds to the Wainscott address at 8:24 p.m.
The dispatcher instructed Ross in chest compressions — 600 of them.
Meanwhile, dispatchers called over Bridgehampton Fire Department's frequency for "any Bridgehampton chief to call communications."
Bridgehampton First Assistant Chief Tim Doran called in and he is briefed on the situation. "East Hampton is heading to the scene. Do you want us to dispatch your crew." He said, yes.
Ross, meanwhile, can be heard counting out the compressions. Before she got to 20, the dispatcher tells her to do them a little bit faster. "Why doesn't help get here a little bit faster?"
As she counted to 24, dispatches went out to Bridgehampton, 12 minutes into the call.
When she got to about 40 counts, Ross became hysterical. It's as if she realizes there was a mistake in dispatching the call. "What's your name? I want your name," she screamed.
"You killed my husband, what's your name?" The dispatcher said he can't hear her. "I'll have your job. I'll have your ass," she screamed, though it isn't entirely clear if she screaming at him or in general.
The East Hampton ambulance, the one that had been brought into the call as it was heading back from another call, arrived on the call at 8:27 p.m.
A Bridgehampton paramedic arrived at the house at 8:30 p.m., just as the first East Hampton ambulance and an East Hampton first responder, who had been in East Hampton looking the wrong address, arrived. Bridgehampton's ambulance arrived four minutes later.
"I was begging for help! My husband was dying!," Ross screamed at the end of the call, seemingly as help has finally arrived.
Paramedics and advanced emergency medical technicians from both departments tried to revive her husband for more than a half hour at the house. The Bridgehampton ambulance, which ultimately transported Lanny Ross, left for the hospital at 9:02 p.m.
Eleven minutes later, they arrive at the hospital, where a physician pronounced him dead.