A community in Cincinnati, Ohio is overwhelmed as a teen died suddenly in an odd accident. Kyle Plush, a 16-year-old student at Seven Hills School, died after being trapped in his van. It seems the teen was getting ready to go to tennis practice when he was pinned under a van seat while looking for his racket.
Plush drove his 2002 Honda Odyssey to school as he usually did. Last Tuesday he had practice after school. After parking close to the tennis courts, the teen got into the van to gather everything he needed. One of the backseats fell onto him and he was stuck under it. He did not have his cell phone within reach, but he was able to use a voice app to call 911. Even though he made several calls for help, crucial information was not passed on to the police. One of the operators is now on leave after the boy’s body was found hours later by his family. There are also questions about this employee being unhappy in her current job.
When Plush called the first time for help, he made sure to tell the operator, now identified as Amber Smith, his call was not a prank. He knew his situation sounded like it was perhaps a joke. He also knew he was not only stuck but in real trouble.
In the process of getting the tennis equipment, one of the van seats was kicked out of place. The seat fell and knocked the teen over in the process.
He was upside down on the floor of the van with the heavy weight of the seat keeping him in place. It was also impacting his ability to breath.
The first call was made at 3 pm. He was scared and begging for help.
Plush asked the operator to send police immediately. He feared he did not have much time.
During the first call, Plush made a fateful plea to the operator to pass a message to his mother if he were to die. The stressed teen quietly stated:
“This is not a joke. I am trapped inside a gold Honda Odyssey van in the parking lot of Seven Hills… Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead. I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die.”
Plush made sure to explain to the person taking the call what kind of van he was trapped inside.
Beyond sharing a detailed description of the van, Plush also told the operator where he was located. He was in a parking lot by his school, but he did not specify which parking lot.
The fact that there were seven parking lots at the school later slowed down the search for the teen. The police were also not told much about the vehicle beyond the fact that it was a van.
Operator Amber Smith was identified by Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac. It appears that Smith did not tell responding officers that they were looking for a gold van or the make of the vehicle. She was said to be unhappy with the job and might have downplayed the situation.
This was crucial information and could have sped up the search for Plush. Officers did search multiple parking lots but never located the gold van.
Plush placed a second call for help. Authorities have not released the transcript from this call. They have also not shared how much time passed between the initial call at 3 pm and the last call.
According to Isaac:
“On that second 911 call something has gone terribly wrong. This young man was crying out for help. We weren’t able to get that information to the officers on the scene. We need to find out why.”
Isaac shared that this is a case of a “horrific tragedy” and that there may have been human error involved.
Even though the police responded to the school, they may not have searched all of the parking lots. There was some confusion as to which parking areas around the school were a part of the school property.
The police on the scene thought they did a full search.
Because Plush was supposed to attend a sports practice after school, his parents did not realize anything was out of the ordinary for several hours after his calls for help.
His parents reported him missing after he did not come home from practice. At the time no one knew the missing teenager was also the one that had called 911 earlier.
Plush’s dad went to the school to look for him. At 9 pm that evening, it was not the police who discovered what had happened to the young man who called 911 for help.
His father found the teen dead under the van seat. According to medical records, his “…death has been ruled accidental from asphyxia due to chest compression.”
The 911 calls and the police response that followed are both currently under investigation. The family, school, and community are left with far more questions than answers at this point.