Family Sues City Over Tot's Strangling

Child caught in soccer net in '07

The family of a toddler who died after getting himself tangled in a soccer net has sued a Dallas suburb and responding police officers who the parents claim wasted critical minutes after a 911 call.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Tyler also says emergency responders refused to give CPR instructions to the frantic mother of 21-month-old Matthew Cantrell in the 2007 incident.

The suit claims Murphy police officers mistakenly thought the boy was dead and treated the home like a crime scene by barricading the mother and another son in a bedroom before medical technicians arrived. The suit says police initially refused those technicians access to the boy.

Medical personnel found no pulse when they reached the child, but his heartbeat was later restored in an ambulance, according to the lawsuit. He died three days later in a Dallas hospital, the suit said.

Murphy City Manager James Fisher said Wednesday the city would have no comment until after the City Council is briefed on the case at its next meeting June 1.

Matthew Cantrell became entangled in the net of a backyard soccer goal after his mother fell asleep, The Dallas Morning News reported. His mother, Ave Cantrell, discovered him and couldn't free him from the netting. She then cut him loose from the netting with scissors and took him to a couch in their home, the lawsuit said.

The mother tried repeatedly to get a 911 dispatcher to tell her how to perform CPR before the dispatcher transferred the call the East Texas Medical Center emergency unit, according the lawsuit. Medical center personnel also did not offer CPR instructions, the suit said. Murphy police have said dispatchers are instructed not to give CPR instructions over the phone, the Morning News reported.

Responding police officers found the mother trying to give her son CPR on the couch and pulled her away from him, the lawsuit said. She was held in another room while Matthew Cantrell went unattended, according to the suit.

By the time medical personnel arrived and performed CPR on the child, it has been nearly 10 minutes since Ave Cantrell's 911 call, the lawsuit said.

 "When you call 911, you think they're going to help. But here, no one tried to help -- not the 911 operator, not the Murphy police officers who were first on the scene. Not one of them tried to save my boy's life," Michael Cantrell, the boy's father, said in a statement released by his attorneys.

 An attorney for East Texas Medical Center didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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