Inquest into mishandled 911 call begins in Ottawa
The last person to hear from 54-year-old Kathryn Missen of Casselman, ON was the operator who answered her 911 call.
Doug Sanders, a senior at OPP’s Central Emergency Reporting Bureau in North Bay, held back tears as he apologized to Missen’s three sisters and her daughter at an inquest into her death.
“I never want this to happen to anyone ever again,” Sanders said. “If I can make this better for future call takers – I will.”
On September 1st, 2014, Kathryn Missen was having an asthma attack at her home in Casselman.
She called 911 – but officers did not attend the home. On September 3rd, Missen’s body was found by neighbours.
The hearing happening in Ottawa, presided byDr. David Cameron as coroner, will focus on the mishandled 911 call is at the centre of the inquest.
“We’ve got to figure out something better to get medical help to people who are in that situation,” said Brenda Missen, the victim’s sister.
Kathryn Missen’s family believes the current 911 dispatching system is too complicated.
On that day in 2014, Sanders forwarded the emergency call to a second OPP operator in Smiths Falls.
“There’s a female on the line,” he said to the second call taker. “I’m not sure what she needs. She hasn’t said anything.”
Prabhu Rajan, coroner’s counsel, says that call was eventually dispatched more than 90 minutes later. The officer never attended the scene.
The family was shocked to learn that emergency calls like Missen’s can bounce around the province before help is sent out.
“It just seems crazy,” said Missen’s daughter, Harriet Clunie.
“From the very beginning it wasn’t being communicated, and there was a breakdown there,” said Lynne Missen Jolly, another one of Missen’s sisters.
Brenda Missen says her sister was born with severe food and environmental allergies. She had been to the hospital for treatment at least a dozen times and always made it there.
“This was the first time she needed to call 911,” Brenda Missen said.
The family is hoping the inquest will lead to changes for Ontario’s 911 system - including an end to the two–tier dispatching.
The inquest is expected to continue until November 2nd.