Father: Allen County 911 was unreachable during emergency

By William Laney

January 27, 2014

LIMA — When a Lima couple’s 2-month-old son suddenly stopped breathing last week, his father said he, the boy’s mother and a friend called 911 13 times for help.

Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish said the calls never made it to the 911 dispatch center so they could provide assistance.

At 4:35 p.m. Thursday, Kendra White was playing with her infant son, Landon Selhorst, in his bassinet. He was laughing and smiling when White and the boy’s father, C.J. Selhorst, noticed Landon’s chest stopped moving. He soon started turning blue. The infant started thrashing and throwing his head from side to side.

White picked up their infant son and handed him to his father. She started calling 911.

White first used her own cellphone four times then proceeded to use his cellphone. Their friend, Nicole Stoneburner, used her cellphone eight times.

While they called, Selhorst jumped into action. He used his finger to check if there was any blockage in his throat. He had just finished using a nose syringe to clear his son’s nose when he noticed foam and blood coming from his mouth.

“All that ran through my mind at the time was I thought I was going to lose my son,” Selhorst said.

Selhorst continued to try and revive his son. He used the syringe to clear the foam and blood and then proceeded to give his son CPR. After a couple of minutes of administering CPR, he finally got his young son to start breathing again.

They used one of their cellphones to call a friend, who traveled across Lima to help.

They then took their son to Lima Memorial Health System because of its close proximity to their Leonard Street home for further evaluation.

Selhorst could not believe none of the calls went through to dispatchers. He wanted answers.

When Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish learned of the Selhorst’s predicament, he wanted answers, too.

“If we don’t answer a 911 call, it kicks over to the city’s 911 system automatically as well as their 911 calls flip over to our system,” Crish said. “If someone would call 911 and nobody answers, they need to be calling our 419-227-3535 number and telling us they had just tried to call 911 and nobody answered.

“We want you to let somebody know that you cannot get through on 911,” the sheriff said. “It is technology and anything can happen, but we have things in place to help make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Crish said if they have to call the Sheriff’s Office’s main line, dispatchers may keep the party on the phone and inquire if they could call 911 from another telephone or cellphone to see if there is a problem with the 911 system.

If they tried to place a 911 call and gave up, deciding to go to the hospital, Crish said he would still want them to call the Sheriff’s Office at a later time and tell them they had problems so they could investigate why the call did not go through to dispatch.

On Monday, Crish told The Lima News he knew the 911 system was working on Thursday despite recent inclement weather.

Crish said if the 911 system is down he notifies the local media to have them inform the public the system is not operating. When the system is operational again, the sheriff makes an announcement so the media can tell the public the system is working again.

Reviewing documents pertaining to the Selhorst case on Monday, Crish could find no record of the any calls being made to 911 Thursday from the Selhorst’s, White’s, or Stoneburner’s cellphones, noting even hang-ups and calls made to the office but not picked up by a dispatcher register on a call list.

On Monday, Crish had a deputy go to Selhorst’s residence and check the cellphones. He said the three cellphones list calls being made but the deputy noted no time duration on the calls. The deputy tested the phones by calling 911 and dispatchers answered.

Crish said he intends to continue investigating the matter, with the next step to try and determine if there was a problem with the cellphone carrier.

Meanwhile, Selhorst said Landon appears to be fine.

Selhorst and White made calls Monday to set up an appointment with their pediatrician to see if they can get a heart monitor for their young son.