The parents of a 16-year-old boy who died trapped in a minivan parked near his school made clear Tuesday they will be relentless in pushing for answers and changes to Cincinnati's emergency response system, saying it would be "inexcusable" not to take action to keep another family from facing a tragedy like theirs.
Ron Plush, his wife Jill beside him, said he hadn't wanted to listen to their son Kyle's two 911 calls pleading for help — at one point Kyle warns "I'm going to die here" — but he did before Tuesday morning's city council committee meeting because of conflicting and incomplete information about them. Ron Plush found his son dead in their minivan nearly six hours after the boy's first call.
"As you can imagine, it was very difficult," he told city officials as he made a PowerPoint presentation about his own review of the events of April 10. Among other things, he recently drove around the Seven Hills School area where Kyle's minivan was parked at the same time of day two Cincinnati police officers had driven there in response to the first 911 call.
Plush made his presentation after the acting city manager, with the police chief next to him, offered point-by-point answers and discussed corrective actions planned on the more than 30 questions the Plush family posed after a committee hearing earlier this month. Plush called the answers "a great start," then raised more questions about procedural and equipment issues and a seeming lack of urgency in responses to a caller who said he was dying and described his vehicle and general location.
A coroner said Kyle died of asphyxiation because his chest was being compressed. It's suspected that the 2004 Honda Odyssey's foldaway rear seat flipped over and pinned him as he reached for tennis gear in the back.
Plush told city officials that with a proper emergency response, he and his wife would have spent the evening of April 10 at the hospital as their son recovered from minor injuries, telling Kyle "how proud we were of him" for how he handled a life-threatening situation and maintained his composure to give call-takers detailed information.
"What actually happened: That evening I drove to the school and found Kyle. Two days later, my family was planning Kyle's visitation, funeral and burial," Plush said. "This can't happen to another family. We need to continue to identify all the failures that day and work toward solutions."
Plush has said Kyle is giving them the strength to get that done.
The city will seek an independent review of the response, and authorities said actions are underway to upgrade equipment, increasing training and improve ways to hone in on 911 callers' locations.
Mayor John Cranley said he wanted to make clear parts of the response "were just wrong." He said a 911 recording from Kyle should have been replayed with the volume turned up, the fire department should have been dispatched to help the search and rescue, and that the two police officers should have gotten out of their cruiser to search vans in the area.
"I don't think we should sugarcoat it," Cranley said. "It was not OK. It ended in a death."
Ron Plush said he wants more answers at the Law & Public Safety Committee's June 11 meeting.