A Kansas Woman Died in an Apartment Fire. Her Family Blames the 911 Dispatch Center’s Mistakes

December 4, 2023

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a 22-year-old woman who died in an apartment fire in Kansas’ largest city after mistakes by the 911 dispatch center believes the center has “systemic issues,” and the local firefighters union is calling for an independent investigation.

Paoly Bedeski`s family in Wichita issued a statement Thursday, The Wichita Eagle reported. It was the family`s first since the fatal fire and it came two days after the city firefighters union held a news conference to detail “significant and devastating” errors by the dispatch center in Sedgwick County, where the city is located.

The dispatch center failed to relay the number of Bedeski`s third-floor apartment to firefighters and waited 17 minutes to sound a second alarm to bring more crews to the scene. Bedeski called 911 just before 4 a.m. on Oct. 13 to report her apartment was on fire.

County officials said they are still gathering information and expect to have an advisory board review the details next week. But local firefighters union President Ted Bush has said publicly that the dispatch center`s mistakes delayed the response to the fire and prevented Bedeski`s rescue, and the Sedgwick County Commission said it also supports an independent review.

The family`s statement, issued by its lawyer, said, “These failures cost Paoly her life.”

“The Bedeskis are now calling for immediate correction of these systemic issues and accountability for those responsible, emphasizing the need for adequate protection for the county’s residents,” the statement said.

Elora Forshee, director of Sedgwick County Emergency Communications, has said Bedeski’s call was not intelligible enough for the dispatcher to understand that she was trapped.

Audio from the call, posted online by The Eagle, showed that much of the first 50 seconds of the call from a terrified-sounding Bedeski was hard to understand. However, she clearly stated the name of her apartment complex and her apartment number after being asked by the dispatcher to repeat herself.

Bedeski`s voice is not heard after the first 50 seconds of the four-plus minutes of audio. About 45 seconds after last hearing her voice, the dispatcher says, “Hello? I need you to say your apartment number clearly and distinctly.”

He then reports the blaze to firefighters, with the address of the apartment complex but not the apartment number.

As for the delay in sounding a second alarm, Forshee said the issue was “addressed on the spot” with additional training.

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