A D.C. fire lieutenant has been charged by the fire department with neglect of duty after a 1-year-old boy died from choking on a grape earlier this year, but the D.C. firefighters union believes the blame lies solely with a computer software glitch.
On March 13, the little boy began choking on Warren Street NW in Tenleytown.
D.C. Fire and EMS received a 911 call at 8:36 a.m. and paramedics arrived on scene 11 minutes later, according to a release from the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The 911 call center did not send the closest available unit.
"There is a call for a choking child. It's three blocks away. Get out of the station and get there," D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue said.
An internal review found the lieutenant who was in charge of Engine 20 that morning in Northwest D.C. did not properly notify dispatchers of the status of his medical units, according to a 49-page internal report on the incident obtained by News4. The report also says that he failed to recognize a problem with the dispatch technology.
The little boy died days later in the hospital.
The fire department has charged the lieutenant with neglect of duty, incompetence and failure to provide assistance to the public, News4 learned Tuesday.
He will face a trial board on the internal charges. They are not criminal charges.
The report also shows there were problems with new computer tablets being used by firefighters and paramedics, and the lieutenant was not familiar with the new technology.
"When you're sitting in the firehouse, the bell and whistles go off -- that's your run, that's when you jump on the rig, that's when you go out the door," said Ed Smith, head of the D.C. firefighters union. "If the technology had been working correctly, one could assume the closest unit was being selected properly."
In addition to the charges against the firefighter, the report recommends changes in how the department communicates with 911 dispatch.
These charges are similar to those to those filed against the firefighters involved in the failed response to Medric Cecil Mills, who collapsed and died outside a D.C. firehouse. The public was not allowed to watch the hearings. The lieutenant in charge that day was able to retire with a full pension and no discipline.