The family of a 4-year-old girl who died after she was hit by a 17-year-old unlicensed SUV driver fleeing police is suing the city over a 911 dispatcher error that caused a more than four-minute delay in sending an ambulance to help little Ariel Russo and her injured grandmother.
The complaint is expected to charge the city with careless negligence in the child's June 4 Upper West Side death, according to the Daily News. Russo and her 55-year-old grandmother were walking to school when they were struck; the grandmother suffered a broken back and leg in the crash.
The News reports the grandmother testified before a grand jury from her hospital room, and notices of claim are expected to be filed Wednesday afternoon.
"It took too long for them to get there," Ariel Russo's mother, Sofia, told the News. "No other child should die because it takes too long. The ambulance system has to be fixed for the children of New York."
The lawsuits are expected to seek $20 million each for Russo's death and her grandmother's injuries, and name the FDNY, the NYPD, the Emergency Medical Service and the owners of the vehicle in the fatal wreck as defendants, according to the News.
Fire officials last week said "human error" within the 911 system caused the dispatch delay. New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said a dispatcher received the emergency call after the crash near 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, but didn't see it immediately and left the terminal.
Four minutes later, a different operator sat down, saw the call and dispatched the ambulance. By that point, eight minutes had passed since the crash — and police at the scene had radioed 911 four separate times in an effort to get the little girl medical help, the News reported.
Cassano said the department is talking to the dispatcher.
"The screen should never be left unread," he said. "These are life-saving calls. We'll look at the person that handled that call improperly, and if discipline is required, we'll discipline people."
He said it's not clear whether a faster response would have helped Russo.
The little girl was buried Monday in her ballerina dress, alongside a teddy bear and her favorite doll, according to the News.
"This is a terrible tragedy which never should have happened," the Russo family lawyers, Sanford Rubenstein and Ira Newman, told the News. "We intend to hold accountable all those responsible civilly, and the family is fully cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney's office."
The 17-year-old driver who plowed into the girl and her grandmother while allegedly trying to evade police who had pulled him over for reckless driving was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter shortly after the fatal crash. He had a learner's permit, but no valid license.