ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Louis County 911 call was routed to Colorado while a 6-year-old boy drowned. FOX 2 has learned it was because of a failure by St. Louis County to properly set up its phone system. It’s a problem the county says has since been fixed.
Six-year-old T.J. Mister drowned July 20 in the Kennedy Recreation Center pool.
In the months since the incident, we’ve learned that there was only one lifeguard watching the pool, when the rec center required at least two. FOX 2 also found a life-saving AED machine had the wrong pads. Staff also failed to use it, even though training protocols said it could still be effective.
Now, we’re learning that even something as simple as the 911 call was delayed. The delay was because of a failure by St. Louis County to properly set up its phone system.
We found the problem in an audit we obtained through the Missouri Sunshine Law. An audit by St. Louis County’s lifeguard company, Starguard Elite, says a maintenance staff member called 911 from an office phone and that call went to a dispatch center in Colorado. The report adds that Colorado transferred the call to St. Louis and the call went to voicemail. Colorado then rerouted the call to St. Louis County.
The call went to Colorado because the rec center used an internet phone or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). When you set up an internet phone, you must register an address when you fill out all the paperwork; otherwise, the call will go to a special 911 center in Colorado. That’s what happened that tragic July day.
T.J. Mister’s parents, Olga and Travone, recently asked the St. Louis County Council for action.
“Months we have been searching for answers. Why it happened. How it happened. And we found out it was preventable,” Olga said. “I will never be able to hold him again, but we have to prevent this from happening again.”
They want summer camps regulated, just like childcare centers are regulated. There’s currently a loophole in both Missouri and Illinois for summer camps to operate without a license and without safety checks.
St. Louis County has consistently told us it cannot comment on this case because of a pending $40 million lawsuit.
However, late Monday, a county representative said the phone issue has been fixed. A spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said they identified about a dozen phones out of 5,500 countywide that were not properly registered, but they are now.