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Trapped Teen Used Siri to Call 911. It Wasn't Enough

Also, Cincinnati newspaper is able to re-create freak accident that killed Kyle Plush
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2018 1:28 PM CDT
Unsecured Seat Latch May Have Doomed Teen
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac speaks Thursday to reporters about the death of Kyle Plush.   (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

(Newser) – It sounds too awful to be a true: A 16-year-old boy becomes trapped alone in the back of a minivan and suffocates to death despite calling 911 twice. How did it happen to Kyle Plush of Cincinnati? It seems the teen was grabbing his tennis equipment inside the parked 2004 Honda Odyssey when he kneeled on the third-row bench seat to reach into the cargo area. The seat popped up, flipped the youth upside down, and pinned him against the back of the vehicle, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. The newspaper tested out the scenario on the same make and model vehicle and found that it can indeed happen if the seat latch is not secured. Details and developments:

  • The test: The Enquirer explains that the bench seat has a latch, allowing it to fold into the rear well for more cargo space. With the latch unsecured, "a reporter kneeling on the bench seat and reaching into the rear well was able with little effort to rock the seat backward," write Anne Saker and Alexander Coolidge. "That motion of the heavy metal-framed seat can sandwich a person upside down, pinned between the back of the bench seat and the jamb of the rear door."

story continues below

  • Timeline: The Dayton Daily News and the Enquirer each have timelines. It begins when Kyle parks the van about 3pm Tuesday in the parking lot of Seven Hills School, which he attended, to play in a tennis match.
  • First call: Trapped and struggling to breathe, Kyle called 911 through his phone's voice-activated Siri function at 3:16pm. "I'm in desperate need of help," he tells the dispatcher, per the Washington Post. The dispatcher struggles to understand him and asks multiple times for an address; the call goes dead, and the dispatcher calls back but gets voicemail; two officers respond to the area but can't locate Kyle. A deputy is heard speculating whether it was a prank. "I believe if we had a little bit clearer, more accurate information we could have found the vehicle," says a Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman, per WCPO.
  • Second call: Kyle managed to call a second time at 3:35pm, and the Post says he was struggling to breathe even more. On the call, he asks the dispatcher to tell his mom he loves her, gives specifics about his location and his vehicle, and says he's "almost dead." He can't seem to hear the dispatcher. "Can you hear me?" he asks at one point. He then repeats, "Hey Siri" five times. Police say details from the second call were not relayed to officers, reports the AP. Another deputy checked the scene at 3:48 and also came up empty.
  • The dispatcher: The 911 operator on the second call, Amber Smith, has been placed on leave. Smith had complained about her job on Facebook as recently as last Friday, reports the Enquirer. She wrote that she had to work frequent OT, adding, "All it does [is] make us hate our job and hate the people that are off for months."
  • Discovery: It was Kyle's father who finally found the teen about six hours after his final call. Paramedics couldn't revive him, with the preliminary cause of death said to be asphyxiation by chest compression.
  • No recalls: A spokesperson for Honda says the automaker had issued no recalls regarding seats for the 2004 Odyssey.
  • Remembering Kyle: "Creative, vibrant, and kind" is how a statement from Mercy Montessori School, which Kyle attended from kindergarten to sixth grade, remembers the teen, per WCPO. The story also notes that Kyle had "spinal development problems and other medical issues that impeded his physical mobility," but he loved sports just the same. The Seven Hills School called him "a young man of keen intelligence, good humor, and great courage."
(Read more Honda Odyssey stories.)

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