Toddler who choked on grapes dies; emergency response questioned

There has been a tragic development surrounding dispatching in the District. A toddler has now died after he stopped breathing after choking while eating grapes. 

As FOX 5's Paul Wagner first reported, D.C.'s emergency 911 did not dispatch the nearest help to assist the child.

For five days, an 18-month-old boy fought for his life in the hospital. He had choked on grapes and suffered cardiac arrest at his Warren Street home last week.  His family told FOX 5 the child died Wednesday night.

"My condolences to the family. As you might imagine, I'm sure their hearts are breaking and our hearts break for them," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Bowser has ordered an investigation into why D.C.'s Office of Unified Communications dispatched an ambulance from a station on Connecticut Avenue, instead of from Engine 20, which is only just blocks away from the Warren Street home of the child who died.

Kenny Lyons, president of the D.C. Fire and EMS Ambulance Union, says the city's new tablet based system, which uses Wi-Fi hotspots to see which ambulances are closest to an emergency, is not seeing the right information because of system is dropping out.

"It is apparent that the system failed not just the family-- but the child, so some of the blame if not all of the blame has to go on the system," said Lyons.

The boy's father reports the first 911 call went out at 8:33 a.m.  Records obtained by FOX 5 show the first unit was dispatched at 8:40 a.m.  Engine 31 arrived at 8:47 a.m. Truck 12 and Medic 31 arrived at 8:48 a.m., but Engine 20 was never dispatched. The mayor says it's her job to make sure the system works correctly.

"My job is to make sure we have the best people, responding and rendering lifesaving aide in every case," said Bowser.

The D.C. Office of Unified Communications said in a statement "The Office of Unified Communications sent the closest unit available that was logged on with a paramedic." 

First responders have told FOX 5 they dispute that because they maintain they were ready to be dispatched, but for whatever reason the 911 center did not see them in the system.

The medical examiner has performed an autopsy on the 18-month-old boy. Results are pending.

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