Two witnesses to a car stuck on train tracks said Friday they are speaking out about what happened after seeing another recent NBC 5 report on Dallas 911 failures.
Allegra Misitano and Geoff Kitchens had never met before they happened to be in separate cars approaching DART rail tracks from opposite directions around 1 a.m. Fathers’ Day morning.
They saw another car stuck on the tracks.
“And I told my friend 'this is like an emergency. We need to help someone.' So, we stopped and pulled over,” Misitano said.
They called 911 for help, but never got through.
“It was just a hold line the entire time. Every 30 seconds or so it would say, ‘yes you're still on hold with 911. Please wait for the next attendant,” Kitchens said.
As a train approached, they got the driver out of the stuck vehicle. And the train stopped before hitting the car.
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Misitano said she finally reached police from nearby Southern Methodist University with a direct number and SMU got DART police to respond and remove the vehicle.
“The community needs to realize that the Dallas PD is no help, which is unfortunate. And we need to change that,” Misitano said.
She said she reached out to NBC 5 about her experience after seeing a report earlier this week about past Dallas 911 problems.
When two people were stabbed last week on Frazier Street, 911 failed to answer for nearly 12 minutes, so a neighbor took a 7-year-old victim to a nearby fire station, but the child died.
Last September, the Westin Galleria Hotel front desk could not reach 911 to report gunfire in the parking lot. A man was later found dead in the parking lot when authorities finally did arrive.
And the Dallas 911 problems go back years.
Over the busy Fourth of July holiday in 2012, a home burned down blocks away from a fire station, as callers were unable to reach a call taker at Dallas 911.
In recent years, a woman was paralyzed, there have been deaths including a woman mauled to death by a pack of wild dogs, all blamed at least in part of Dallas 911 failures.
At the end of May the call center had 84 employees but was authorized for 110.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson spoke out about the situation this week, too.
“We can't make excuses for something like this. This is something we have to get right,” Johnson said.
New Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who oversees the Dallas 911 call center, said he is working on solutions, including better pay to keep and attract call takers, plus faster training to get new hires on the job sooner.
“We're calling volunteers. We're having some recruits come off the street for a short period of time and take the load off. But, all of those are temporary measures. We’ve got to fix what the problem is. And we’ve got full support from the City Manager,” Garcia said.
The Dallas 911 goal is answering 90% of calls within 10 seconds. A report this month said the city fails that goal by answering only 66% of calls within 10 seconds.
Garcia said part of the challenge is an increase of calls this year to the understaffed 911 call center.
Geoff Kitchens said emergencies like he witnessed are very alarming.
“I was scared to death. I was almost in shock for the rest of the night. Looking dead on into the lights of that train, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.
Allegra Misitano said this is the kind of situation for which she expects help from 911.
“That’s how we were raised when we were little. Call 911 when there’s an emergency. They will respond. Unfortunately, they did not respond,” she said.
Both witnesses said they hope their voices will help increase awareness and improve the chance that Dallas 911 does answer for the next emergency.