Sixteen-year-old Kyle Plush was apparently reaching for his tennis gear in the back of his minivan when he became helplessly pinned in the fold-away third-row seat. He knew he was in serious trouble.
Using the voice-activated feature on his cellphone, he had Siri dial 911 and warned: “I’m going to die here.” He called again minutes later, this time describing his vehicle: a gold Honda Odyssey.
Two police officers drove around at the boy’s high school looking for him but left after 11 minutes, one of them reporting dubiously: “I don’t see nobody … which I don’t imagine I would.”
Kyle’s father would discover the body nearly six hours after the first call.
The teen’s death April 10 from what the coroner said was suffocation from compression of his chest has led to accusations of bungling on the part of Cincinnati police and the city’s 911 emergency center, contributed to a City Hall shakeup and raised questions about the safety of the Honda vehicle.
“This was a horrific tragedy. We share in their heartbreak around this,” Police Chief Eliot Isaac said of the boy’s family.
The furor has prompted major changes at the 911 center, which had been plagued for years with staffing, workplace and operational problems that were spotlighted after Kyle’s death. More changes could come after the police department’s internal probe and the county prosecutor’s investigation.
Hanging over it all are the boy’s words in haunting 911 audiotapes:
“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die. This is not a joke. … This is not a joke. … Send officers immediately. I am almost dead.”
The police chief will present his findings to City Council on Wednesday on what went wrong in efforts to locate the teenager. But he said officers who went to the scene never received the vehicle description from Kyle’s second call. He declined to elaborate.
The 911 operator who took the second call was briefly placed on leave. She has since returned to work.
Police also released body-camera footage that doesn’t show the responding officers getting out of their vehicle. But the clips accounted for only about three minutes of the time they were on the scene.
One of the officers is heard commenting that students at the private school were driving “better cars than you do.”
Police said they left the Seven Hills school parking area at 3:37 p.m., about two minutes after Kyle’s second call.
A friend called the boy’s parents around 8 p.m., saying Kyle, a member of the tennis team, never showed up for his match.
Many questions remain unanswered, including exactly how the teen became trapped. It is suspected that the rear seat flipped over as he reached over it.
Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the automaker has been seeking access to inspect the 2004 Odyssey to better understand what happened.
Honda last year recalled some 900,000 later-model Odysseys because of concerns about second-row seats tipping forward if not latched properly, but Martin said there were no seat-related recalls of the 2004 model.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it has been in touch with local authorities and Honda and will take “appropriate action.”
In the fallout over the 911 center, City Manager Harry Black resigned under pressure. City Council also approved about $450,000 for more staff, better training, improved technology and workplace upgrades.
Plush family members have been sitting in on council meetings, storming out of one after taking offense at a councilman’s suggestion they were seeking money.
In a statement, Kyle’s parents, Ron and Jill Plush, called him a “remarkable son” who “embraced life with a passion beyond his years.”
“We also have questions and want answers,” they said.