A man having trouble breathing waited 14 minutes for an ambulance in the Alexandria area Monday morning, and Fairfax County officials said confusion over his location caused the unusually long wait for help. The man died a short time later.
No cause of death was available yesterday, and officials said it was not clear whether a rapid response would have saved the man.
The 50-year-old man, whose name was not released, apparently was stricken shortly after 8 a.m. at Waldron Inc., 5910 Farrington Ave., just west of Van Dorn Street. The line between Alexandria and Fairfax County runs past Waldron's offices, with Waldron on the Fairfax side.
But when the first call for help came in on a 911 line at 8:03 a.m., it went to Alexandria call-takers. Jane Malik, an Alexandria fire spokeswoman, said that the call was routed incorrectly by Verizon and that officials have asked the phone company to amend its database.
While the call was being transferred to Fairfax, Malik said, the caller hung up. The Alexandria call-taker told a Fairfax call-taker about the medical emergency and assumed that Fairfax would dispatch an ambulance, Malik said.
About six minutes later, the caller phoned 911 again, and for the second time, the call went to Alexandria. Again, the dispatcher transferred the call to Fairfax. Two or three minutes later, Malik said, the Fairfax dispatcher called Alexandria and said the incident was actually in Alexandria.
"We told them that, no, it was actually in Fairfax, but it was at this point that we understood they had not dispatched the call," Malik said. "And so we went ahead and dispatched it because the most important thing was to render aid to this patient," Malik said.
An ambulance and fire engine were dispatched. Medics arrived 14 minutes after the initial call, at 8:17 a.m. Private citizens were administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Malik said. Medics took over and took the patient to Alexandria Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Authorities did not know what the man was suffering from.