Mother dies after 911 call is treated as prank

Rob Williams

Staff member
Another from the WTF vault: MSNBC

DETROIT - A 5-year-old boy called 911 to report that his mother had collapsed in their apartment, but an operator told him he should not be playing on the phone, and she died before help arrived.

The family of Sherrill Turner, 46, does not know whether a swifter response could have saved her life, but relatives want to know why the operator apparently treated the call as if it were a prank. Police said the 911 response was under investigation.

Turner's son, Robert, placed two calls to 911 after his mother collapsed Feb. 20 on the kitchen floor. During one of the calls, an operator said: "You shouldn't be playing on the phone."

In a tape of the call, parts of which were broadcast by Detroit-area television stations, the operator said: "Now put her on the phone before I send the police out there to knock on the door and you gonna be in trouble."

In an audio of the tape played on TV, some of what the boy says is unintelligible.

Delaina Patterson, the eldest of Turner's 10 children, said police did not arrive until three hours later. She said only Robert and his mother were home at the time.

Detroit police spokesman James Tate said it was at least an hour before authorities arrived, but he said he did not have details. By that time, the boy's mother had died, he said.

"The operator may have believed he was playing on the phone," Tate said.

The 911 operator remains on the job amid the investigation, Tate said.


Tech Monkey
Someone better be paying big time for that screw-up. Last I heard, 911 was supposed to send help regardless and the police were supposed to determin if it was a prank or not. That operator needs to be in jail.


even if he just hung up the police should have, and in most cities probably would have treated it as an emergency.


Partition Master
I bet the operator has a kid that is a prankster. No reason why this happened. 911 operators are suppose to help people and not let them die.


Tech Monkey
That's one of the saddest stories I've read in a while. I don't understand why the operator didn't take the child seriously. Just as T-Shirt said, that situation should have been clearly understood as an emergency. It's worse to know that the operator is still employed. /me hangs head
Sad indeed.

Jen McPherson

Resident Artist Nerd

Yeah, I've just been so disturbed by that. Kids are taught to call 911 to get help, and when they don't help... what does that show kids? All calls to 911 should be treated as an emergency case, prank or not. That is what those operators are trained and paid to do, aren't they?

Its sad to think that this child's mother could have been saved if the woman on the other end had acted appropriately. And to know she's still working... thats even more upsetting. She should be on suspension pending investigation, and then fired. Hell, if it were me, she'd already be fired.