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Ohio 911 operator to return to work after high school student found dead in van

Posted: 11:17 AM, Apr 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-14 16:49:32Z
Ohio 911 operator to return to work after high school student found dead in van

CINCINNATI -- A 911 operator who was placed on leave after a teen's death will return to work Wednesday.

Police spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy couldn't say if that operator, Amber Smith, would face any discipline because an investigation is continuing.

Smith took the second call Kyle Plush placed to 911 as he suffocated in his van outside Seven Hills School. According to documents from an internal review obtained by WCPO, Smith said she couldn't hear him.

He'd be found dead hours later.

Smith's supervisors found her work in that incident was "unacceptable," according to one of the internal documents. 

"Something went wrong here, and we need to find out why we weren't able to provide that help," Chief Eliot Isaac said. 

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In one 911 call, Plush said he was stuck in a van outside the school. In the second call, which Smith took, he described the make, model and color of the minivan where he was trapped and dying.

Investigators don't believe there was a failure in the phone system at that time, so it's not clear why Smith couldn't hear Plush. But the 911 operators' computers experienced trouble "around that same time frame," one of the internal documents states. Smith said her screen froze, preventing her from properly documenting the call. 

READ MORE:  Teen crushed in van was 'vibrant and kind' 

After Plush's first call, the 911 operator on that call used cellphone GPS information to point police officers to the thrift store parking lot across Red Bank Road from the school. Plush was within feet of those coordinates. A quality assurance report shows that the first operator didn't note that she heard Plush banging and screaming in the background.

Two Cincinnati police officers arrived about two minutes later, but said they didn't see anything. Officials haven't said exactly where the officers searched. They tried calling Plush's phone, but he didn't answer. 

They cleared the assignment in less than 11 minutes.

About two minutes before they marked the assignment complete, Plush called 911 the second time. 

"This is not a joke," he said. "I am trapped inside a gold Honda Odyssey van in the parking lot of Seven Hills. ... Send officers immediately. I'm almost dead."

Plush's words were picked up by the recording, even though Smith said she couldn't hear any sounds on the line.  Still, she tried sending a text message to Plush, asking him for the address of the emergency. She tried calling him twice, records show. He never responded.