Detroit EMT refuses to help baby: Go inside the investigation

DETROIT – When 8-month-old I'Nayah Wright-Trussell stopped breathing in a Detroit home on May 30, her mother frantically called 911 for help. But it didn't come fast enough to save her life. The child died a day later.

So what went wrong? Local 4 has obtained documents and audio transcripts of conversations between the 911 dispatcher and an emergency medical technician who is accused of refusing to help.

According to an internal write-up by the Detroit Fire Department, an ambulance named Medic 51 and a rapid response SUV, named Romeo 33, were dispatched.

Rapid response SUVs, which are outfitted to carry emergency medical equipment like ambulances, were implemented by the city to help cut down response times.

When she stopped breathing, I'Nayah was on an oxygen machine because of complications from a premature birth.

Medic 51: "Copy that. We're en route. Right now we have 17-minute estimated time of arrival and we have got -- we are getting pounded by rain at the moment in traffic."

EMT Ann Marie Thomas and her partner were in Romeo 33, right down the street from the scene.

Ann Marie Thomas

Thomas: "Thirty-three is in position on Pembroke, around the corner from the scene."

But before the SUV responds, Thomas asks the dispatcher when the ambulance and police will get there.

Time ticks by, and the dispatcher grows more anxious with Romeo 33.

911: "Uh, Romeo 33? Updated information that the child is not breathing. The baby was hooked up to an oxygen machine because it was premature. Romeo 33?"

The computer-aided dispatch record says Thomas "will not make the scene w/o SCT." Thomas wanted a police car there before she responded.

911: "Romeo 33?"

Romeo 33: "Thirty-three. We copy that. You got ETA on transporting unit?"

Medic 51: "Fifteen minutes, sir."

911: "Fifteen minutes, Romeo 33."

Dispatch continues to reach out to Thomas, but she doesn't answer.

911: "Romeo 33?"

Thomas then calls her supervisor on a cellphone.

Thomas: "Dispatch is not letting us go in position on this run."

Supervisor: "What do you have?"

Thomas: "It's a baby not breathing, no scout available. I'm not about to be on no scene 10 minutes doing CPR. You know how these families get."

To get Thomas on the radio and on the record, the supervisor tells her to call him on a private channel.

In the meantime, the ambulance reports that it's stuck in traffic.

Medic 51: "Fifty-one, our ETA is about 12 minutes, but we're on the freeway and it's downpouring right now. There's traffic everywhere."

The supervisor asks dispatch is there are any safety concerns called in about the scene.

He's told that it's I'Nayah and her mother.

The supervisor gives Thomas a direct order.

Supervisor: "Thirty-three, I'm going to need you to make that scene. I'm going to be en route here, if the scene starts to -- if you feel uncomfortable once you've made patient contact, then you can clear the scene, but you're going to have to make patient contact."

No answer from Thomas.

The order is given again.

Supervisor: "I'm going to need you to make the scene. If the scene is hostile, if the scene turns hostile, clear the scene. You're going to have to make patient contact."

The dispatcher gives another update.

911: "Romeo 33, Medic 51, be advised CPR is being performed on your scene. Romeo 33, Medic 51, CPR is being performed by the baby's mother."

Thomas: "Thirty-three. Fifty-one is still giving a 12-minute ETA."

Supervisor: "Ma'am, you have to make contact with your patient. There's nothing in the comments that state you have a hostile scene. You have to make contact with your patient."

Records show that it took Thomas seven minutes to get to the scene, but she sat in the SUV with her partner for another nine minutes.

Thomas finally goes into the home, but the medics are right behind her, and they treat the baby.

You can hear it in their voices how urgent the situation is.

Medic 51: "I have a 6-month-old female in cardiac arrest. Last time seen alive was about 30 minutes ago. Mom says she's been doing CPR for the last 30 minutes. We're currently doing CPR on the child. Not breathing, no pulse."

I'Nayah was revived at a hospital but died the next day.

The department's investigation reveals that the total response time to get to the baby was 19 minutes.

Supervisor: "Romeo 33. How long did they delay?"

911: "So, nine minutes they were in position?"

Supervisor: "Alright. You know what? I'm putting them off."

That meant that Thomas and her partner were taken off the street.

Thomas' partner told investigators that she had no problem responding to the baby, but she was following Thomas' lead. She likely won't face discipline.

Click here to view the internal report of this incident.

Thomas was disciplined twice by the fire commissioner and subsequently fired.

The Prosecutor's Office is waiting on the results of the police's internal investigation, which could result in Thomas facing criminal charges.

About the Author:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.