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Unexplained fire, EMS & 911 delay in deadly Prince George’s County, MD crash

A week after crash County officials still have no answers to explain news report claiming 18-minute response

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Watch latest report from Jackie Bensen at WRC-TV/NBC4

It has been a week. How much longer will Prince George’s County officials wait until they finally answer questions about a deadly June 8 head-on crash where news reports and radio traffic show a lengthy 911, fire and EMS delay?

In the meantime, the story is very much alive at the region’s top TV news outlet. Reporter Jackie Bensen’s three separate stories in six days show that for 18-minutes Prince George’s County Police officers desperately called for an ambulance for 66-year-old Jonny Morris. Morris died.

You can’t help but have lots of questions watching Bensen’s reports:

  • Why did it take Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications approximately three minutes to dispatch EMS after the urgent request from police?
  • Why did Public Safety Communications only dispatch a medic unit to the initial call instead of a rescue assignment for a vehicle collision?
  • Units from the closest fire station weren’t dispatched. Were they on another call or was the station not staffed?
  • It’s about 2.6 miles from the station that was dispatched to the crash scene. Reporter Bensen drove that route in about five minutes. Her reporting indicates it took about 15-minutes from the time of dispatch for EMS to reach Jonny Morris. What was going on during those 15-minutes?

On June 9, Prince George’s County officials had no comment for Bensen’s initial story. For Monday’s story Prince George’s County issued a statement admitting there was a delay but said they’re still investigating. The investigation apparently wasn’t completed to provide answers for Tuesday’s story.

There are plenty who will argue that it’s right to wait for a thorough investigation before commenting. There are some — usually lawyers representing a jurisdiction — who will make the case you should say nothing because of the potential liability. But is using an investigation and liability concerns as cover to avoid talking about a tragic and uncomfortable situation really in the best interest of anyone? Is it best for the family of the victim? Is it best for the image of the agencies involved or how the public views the jurisdiction? Losing public trust can be significantly more costly than a lawsuit.

It’s hard to imagine that a week later the professionals who run PG 911 and PGFD really don’t know what went wrong on the morning of June 8. Jackie Bensen is a veteran reporter who knows public safety agencies. She isn’t going away. How many more stories will Prince George’s County let Bensen do before their voice is finally heard?

Jackie Bensen’s June 13 report

Jackie Bensen’s June 9 report

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