T-Mobile Sending Engineers to Dallas After Infant Dies During 911 Meltdown

A Dallas family says it lost its 6-month-old baby on the night 442 emergency calls were put on hold. Marie Saavedra reports.

DALLAS - Bridget Alex needs to know why the 911 system wasn’t there when her son needed it the most.

Six-month-old Brandon died Saturday night. Alex says her babysitter couldn’t get through to 911 when she repeatedly tried to call for help.

"I lost my 6-month-old because 911 did not respond,” the Dallas mother says. “There’s no excuse that you can give me to take that pain away.”

The babysitter’s calls to 911 came during a time of crisis Saturday night. That night, 442 callers were put on hold for an average of 38 minutes.

The City says a glitch involving a T-Mobile issue started intermittently in November, but has gotten much worse over the last month.

Whenever a T-Mobile customer calls 911, it creates ghost calls that the system records as 911 hang ups. It creates a bottleneck in the system as 911 operators respond to those “ghost” 911 hang ups. Callers end up getting put on hold as operators try to catch up.

“I need to know why my son of six months is gone,” Alex said. “That’s what I want to know. It should have been fixed by now. This is ridiculous.”

City Manager T.C. Broadnax spoke by phone to T-Mobile’s CEO John Legare after WFAA contacted the City about Brandon’s death. Legare agreed to send his top engineers to Dallas Wednesday morning. He committed to have them stay until the problem is fixed.

“This is an unacceptable situation and the citizens of Dallas deserve better,” said Broadnax. “With Mr. Legere’s commitment today, I’m hopeful T-Mobile can continue to work with the City of Dallas to finally resolve this situation so that we have a reliable 911 system that can properly serve the emergency needs of our citizens.”

T-Mobile’s problems have previously extended beyond Dallas.

In 2015, T-Mobile reached a $17.5 million settlement over two massive nationwide outages that occurred the year before. It affected all of T-Mobile’s nearly 50 million customers. That meant T-Mobile customers dialing 911 during those outages would not have reached first responders.

On Saturday, Alex left 6-month-old Brandon with her best friend, who frequently babysat for her.

Bridget had gone to attend the funeral of her nephew, 19-year-old Drekeiston Alex. He was killed March 2, police say, by a couple who referred to themselves as “Bonnie and “Clyde” as he tried to walk away from them. They bragged about shooting people in a Facebook Live video.

That evening, she was at her sister’s home when the babysitter called. She was frantic.

She told her that Brandon had fallen off a day bed. He was barely breathing, and she could not get him to wake up. The sitter had tried CPR.

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“She said, 'I've called 911 three times,'” Alex says. “'They keep leaving me on hold, and they won't respond.'”

Alex provided WFAA with screenshots of the babysitter’s calls to 911.

The babysitter made the first call at 5:55 p.m. It lasted 55 seconds. She made the second call at 5:57 p.m. It lasted eight minutes and 40 seconds. She called for a third time at 6:11 pm. She stayed on the line for 31 minutes and 35 seconds.

City officials said in that call, dispatchers did try to return each of the calls, but could not connect to the caller. At this point, the statement said that they could not connect the child’s death to the T-Mobile “ghost call issue.”

Bridget says she rushed home to her apartment on Midway Road near Frankford Road. She walked into her apartment. The baby sitter was holding Brandon, who did not appear to be breathing by that point.

“I jumped in the car with him, and I just kept kissing his lips,” Bridget said. “He was still warm. I just kept saying, 'Brandon, please wake up. Please wake up.’”

Bridget drove Brandon to Methodist Hospital for surgery. They transferred Brandon to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, where he was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m. Saturday.

“The doctor came and he was like, ‘We tried, and he just never woke up,’” she said.

Bridget will bury Brandon Monday in her hometown of Greenville. The family started a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses.

“He couldn't even walk, he can't even talk, but he's gone, and I'll never get to see his smile, to feel his touch, to smell him again,” she said.

Police sources told WFAA that Brandon had no obvious injuries. The cause of his death is pending once an autopsy is completed.

Still, Bridget has a hard time understanding why her friend didn’t run outside and ask someone to drive her to the hospital. She can only believe that she was too distraught to know what to do.

She wonders, “Why didn’t you run? Why didn’t you scream? I would have been beating on people’s doors.”

Brandon was her youngest. She has three other children. The oldest is 22. She is heartbroken at the prospect of her life without the smiling infant. He was already trying to walk and feed himself.

“He laughed all the time,” she said. “He liked everybody. He didn’t meet strangers.”

“I just hope this doesn’t happen to another family,” she said, tears flowing down her face. “This hurts so bad. I don’t think anyone should have to bury their child.”

The City of Dallas responded to the incident with the following statement:

Saturday evening, the Dallas 911 Call Center experienced a spike in calls due to the ongoing T-Mobile ghost call issue. A six-month old child died at some time that evening. The Dallas Police Department says an individual who we now believe was the child’s caregiver, called 911 multiple times but hung up before speaking to a call taker. Call takers returned each call, but were unable to reach the individual. The child was taken to two area hospitals. DPD is investigating the death and no additional information can be released, as this case is under investigation.

There is no evidence at this time connecting the child’s death to the T-Mobile ghost call issue. We can only confirm that the caller was using a T-Mobile device and tried reaching 911 Saturday evening, during the spike in calls.

Since November 2016, T-Mobile has been working with multiple city departments to try several solutions unsuccessfully. This afternoon, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax spoke directly with T-Mobile CEO John Legere. Legere committed to sending his top engineers to Dallas tomorrow morning. Legere stressed that they will stay on the ground until the issue is resolved. During that time, DPD will also continue to provide increased staffing in the 911 call center.

“This is an unacceptable situation and the citizens of Dallas deserve better,” said Broadnax. “With Mr. Legere’s commitment today, I’m hopeful T-Mobile can continue to work with the City of Dallas to finally resolve this situation so that we have a reliable 911 system that can properly serve the emergency needs of our citizens.”

The following is a statement from Mayor Mike Rawlings:

"It is outrageous that T-Mobile still has not resolved the ghost call issue that is putting Dallasites in danger by clogging our 911 system. I’m in full agreement with our city manager that our citizens deserve better. This issue not only puts paying T-Mobile customers at risk, but it jeopardizes the safety of people throughout our city. It’s encouraging that T-Mobile will finally be sending top engineers to Dallas tomorrow morning. I can only assume that they will work around the clock until they figure out how to fix this issue."

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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