Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Boy’s Death Blamed on Misrouted 911 Call

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) - A Southern California middle-school student collapsed in P.E. class and died before paramedics arrived because the emergency call was routed through Canada, his parents claim in court.

Livia Salas and Jose Beltran sued Delano Union School District, five employees, the city of Delano, Kern County, and California for the wrongful death of their son, Jose Manuel Beltran, who was 13 when he died on Jan. 26.

The parents say their son was doing sprints in the gym at Cecil Avenue Middle School in Delano when he collapsed. "Despite hi(s) being unresponsive, no school officials attended to him or provided him with medical assistance," according to the Nov. 12 complaint in Kern County Court.

Both P.E. teachers saw Jose fall, but neither gave him CPR or called 911 immediately, the parents say. Instead, they called for a district nurse who rotated among schools and was not on campus at the time.

When teachers finally got the nurse on the phone, she told them to call for emergency help. "When 9-1-1 was called, the call was routed to Northern 9-1-1 in Canada. After delay, the call was re-routed to the appropriate local agency," the parents say.

The nurse got to the middle school before the paramedics did, and found Jose lying face down on the floor. She rolled him over and gave him CPR, which was "the first time any medical attention was provided" to him though he had been unconscious for several minutes, according to the complaint.

Paramedics arrived and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

His parents say the teachers should have known to call for medical help immediately and give their son CPR rather than calling the nurse while he was unconscious on the gym floor.

They also say the 9-1-1 operators should have known how to route the call to a local agency, not Canada, and that their inability to do their job correctly cost their son his life.

School Superintendent Rosalina Rivera told Courthouse News in an email that "under the advice of counsel, we do not have any comment at this time."

Bonifacio Garcia, city counsel for Delano, told Courthouse News that the city had no involvement in the matter and that the parents seem to have "sued everyone in the book."

"I suspect that the city, at the end of the day, will not have any involvement in the case, as it wasn't something we were responsible for or involved in in any way," he said.

Representatives for the state and Kern County did not immediately return emailed requests for comment sent late Thursday evening.

Jose's parents seek damages for wrongful death and negligent hiring, and funeral and burial expenses.

They are represented by Matthew Clark with Chain Cohn Stiles, who did not immediately respond to an email comment request sent late Thursday evening.

Delano, pop. 38,824, is the second-largest city in Kern County. Originally a railroad town, agriculture is its major industry today - especially table grapes.

The city was a hub for the farm workers' rights movement in the 1950s and '60s. In September 1965, Larry Itliong and other Filipino leaders of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee staged a "walk off" from table grape vineyards, known as the Delano Grape Strike. Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers' Association joined the strike a week later, and the two groups formed the United Farm Workers of America, which in 1970 secured a contract with grape growers throughout the state.

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