Witness in refrigerator accident says 911 put him on hold for too long

Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 15:00:36-04

A man who tried to contact authorities about an accident in Otay Mesa over the weekend told 10News he waited on hold with 911 for nearly three minutes.

On June 25, 6-year-old Isaac was accidentally pinned under a refrigerator that was being moved, authorities said. He eventually succumbed to his injuries.

"I was walking … and then I heard a loud sound," Antwon Berry told 10News. "And then I [saw] them pick up the kid, and he just had blood all over him and I just ran over there."

Berry said he called for help.

"I called 911, and while I was calling 911, the lady, I guess she didn't think it was an emergency, so she … I really don't know … she just put me on hold and I was waiting, waiting, waiting. So I hung up and called again," Berry said.

San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said Berry was on hold for 2 minutes and 34 seconds because of a high call volume that afternoon.

Sources told 10News a long wait for 911 isn't just a problem at the police department -- it's also a chronic problem at the fire department.

"I didn't talk to anybody; she put me on hold too long. I hung up and kept calling," Berry said.

Sources also said having 10 dispatchers is considered fully staffed, but normal staffing is usually seven dispatchers, which is the bare minimum allowed.

Seven dispatchers is the same number required in 2005 -- before San Diego Fire Dispatch was assigned with Chula Vista, Poway, National City, Imperial Beach and Coronado.

"It's 911 for a reason. It's an emergency call. You're supposed to call and they're supposed to be here. We shouldn't have to wait. It's an emergency," Berry told 10News.

The young victim's grandfather told 10News a similar accident happened 20 years ago when a refrigerator fell on his 7-year-old nephew, killing him.

A fire department spokesman said the department is aware of the dispatcher shortage and has budgeted for eight new hires this year.