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City Council To Discuss Reported Glitches, Delays In 911 System

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- In the wake of the death of a 4-year-old girl on the Upper West Side, the City Council will hold a meeting Monday on reported glitches with the 911 system.

Ariel Russo was killed, and her grandmother was injured, when a 17-year-old driver with only a learner's permit fled police in a sport-utility vehicle on the Upper West Side nearly two weeks ago.

Ariel's family blamed her death on a 911 call, saying it delayed a response from an ambulance.

Officials said the call came in to 911 at 8:15:38, on Tuesday, June 4, and reached fire EMS at 8:15:40. But an ambulance wasn't dispatched until four minutes later at 8:19:42, CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported.

It took a total of eight minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene.

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano blamed dispatcher error for the delay.

"Somebody made a mistake that was handling that call and we're looking into it. We'll find out what happened," Cassano said three days after the accident.

The experienced EMS dispatcher was going on break and didn't see the call, but the dispatcher's replacement acted immediately, Cassano said.

According to documents obtained by CBS 2 News, other 911 calls also have been delayed – some for several hours. Union officials have claimed the delays could could compromise public safety and cause system failure.

"After you spend $88 million of taxpayer money on a project like this and it doesn't work and you use the citizens of New York as guinea pigs, I don't know what to say," Israel Miranda, president of the EMS union, said last week.

One five-hour delay requested an ambulance for an Astoria man suffering from drug or alcohol abuse.

"He was probably sober by then," Miranda said.

There was also a delay of 2 hours and 28 minutes for a car accident on 89th Street and 103rd Avenue, and a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes for a car accident on 94th Street and Astoria Boulevard.

Cassano claimed the gaps in time are caused by cops responding to calls first and then calling EMS.

"They may have been there for a while, but when they call us we respond," Cassano said last week.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended system last week, saying the old one was 40 years old and had outdated technology.

"I'm told by the experts that you're going to have kinds of bumps or hiccups at the beginning of installing a major system like this," Kelly said.

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