Police: Something went 'terribly wrong' in death of trapped teen who called 911 for help

Plush's gold minivan was towed from the scene late Tuesday (FOX19 NOW)
Plush's gold minivan was towed from the scene late Tuesday (FOX19 NOW)

MADISONVILLE, OH (FOX19) - Authorities are investigating how a 16-year-old boy was crushed to death in a minivan at a school parking lot despite calling 911 at least twice.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac says something went "terribly wrong" in the emergency response to Kyle Plush's distressed 911 calls Tuesday. The teen provided his location and a description of his vehicle, but a Cincinnati Police dispatcher never gave that information to authorities at the scene, Isaac said.

That dispatcher, identified as Amber Smith, has been placed on leave.

Plush was retrieving his tennis gear when the third-row seat of his 2004 Honda Odyssey flipped, pinning him upside down.

Police originally said it was a 2002 model van, but have since clarified.

The Hamilton County coroner ruled Plush's death an accidental asphyxia due to chest compression. No evidence of foul play was found.

He first called 911 at 3:14 p.m.

Six hours later, a family member found the Seven Hills student unresponsive in his unlocked minivan.

"This young man was crying out for help, we weren't able to get the information to the officers at the scene and we need to find out why," Isaac said.

On Thursday, Isaac provided a timeline showing that a Hamilton County deputy and Cincinnati District 2 police officer responded to scene for at least 11 minutes. A deputy checked a van in a parking lot of Seven Hills School, but found nothing, Isaac said.

The sophomore called 911 at least twice begging for help while trapped inside his van parked just off Red Bank Road.

"I'm going to die here," Plush tells a dispatcher after repeatedly asking for help.

The dispatcher asked several times, "Where are you?" and "What is the address?"

"I probably don't have much time left. Tell my mom I love her if I die," he said.

Responding officers could not locate the caller, according to police and the sheriff's office.

The deputy suggested the call might be a prank but kept searching, to no avail.

The dispatcher called Plush's cellphone back, but it went to voice mail.

It's not clear when Plush called 911 for the second time, but he did.

"This is not a joke," he said, according to the recording. "I'm trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van in the (inaudible) parking lot of the Seven Hills."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Cincinnati Police have launched separate investigations into the incident.

"This young man was failed. He should still be with us," said Cincinnati City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld.

He is calling for overdue updates on reform and procedures for emergency dispatch centers.

"Our 911 dispatch center has been plagued with problems and challenges for far longer than is acceptable," said Sittenfeld.

The Seven Hills School released this statement Thursday:

The Seven Hills School community is mourning the loss of one of our students, who passed away on Tuesday in a tragic accident. We are all grieving the loss of this beloved member of our school family—a young person of keen intelligence, good humor, great courage—and we feel this loss profoundly. The school's counseling staff, assisted by outside grief counselors, are providing ongoing support to our community, our students and their families, as well as our faculty and staff.

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