The series of events that delayed fire crews from responding to a choking toddler Tuesday night started much earlier — with an afternoon call about buckets of discarded waste in a Nestor alley.

That single event thinned coverage levels in Mira Mesa by taking one fire engine miles away from its station.

Today, I got a copy of call logs to further understand the tragedy that’s become political. Police arrived at the Mira Mesa home in four minutes and gave the toddler CPR. It took fire crews, which have trained paramedics, more than twice as long to arrive. Why?

The toddler, 2-year-old Bentley Do, later died at a hospital. It remains unclear whether a faster response by paramedics could have prevented his death.

But the timeline below should help you understand what happened Tuesday night. I compiled this information from police and fire interviews, incident records and this timeline by the Union-Tribune.

2:31 p.m. — Engine 30 goes to an alley near Nestor where a caller complains about hazardous materials.

2:40 — Dispatchers send Engine 44, based at Station 44 in Mira Mesa, to the Nestor incident at the request of Engine 30. Engine 44 is one of the city’s two hazardous materials units.

2:46 — Both Engine 30 and Engine 44 are called away from the Nestor scene. Engine 44 is directed to address the site later in the day when it’s less busy.

7:24 — Engine 44 returns to the Nestor scene, which is about 20 miles away from its home station in Mira Mesa. It picks up two one-gallon containers of waste oil and coolant. It’s not clear whether they’d been spilled or not.

8:04 — Engine 44 completes the cleanup in Nestor.

8:14 — A 31-year-old man calls 911. He was playing basketball, got elbowed in the forehead and believed his skull might be fractured. The man is located less than a mile from Station 44 in Mira Mesa, the home of Engine 44 and another engine that’s been shelved by brownouts.

8:16 — Since neither of Station 44’s engines are available, dispatchers send an engine from Station 38, about a mile and a half north as well as an ambulance from Scripps Ranch to the east. It’s a Level 1 call — the second most serious. Dispatcher notes: The patient is “conscious and breathing. POSSIBLY”

8:21 — The engine from Station 38 arrives to help the man.

8:26 — The ambulance from Scripps Ranch arrives.

8:29 — Relatives of 2-year-old Bentley Do call 911. He swallowed a gumball and is choking. He’s located a few blocks from Station 38, whose only engine is responding to the man. It’s a Level 1 call.

8:29 — Dispatchers send an ambulance based in Sorrento Valley, about three miles southwest, to help Do.

8:30 — Police are on their way to help Do.

8:31 — Since the engine from Station 38 is already helping the man and the two engines from Station 44 are unavailable — one is browned out, the other’s in Nestor — dispatchers send Engine 37 from Scripps Ranch. It is four miles away and the nearest available unit.

8:32 — Dispatchers tell crews they are responding to a choking toddler who is “unconscious and breathing. Not alert.”

8:33 — Dispatchers ask for a Vietnamese translator. Do is staying with relatives in Mira Mesa. His parents are from Vietnam.

8:34 — Two police officers arrive and report that the boy is not breathing. They turn the boy on his side, trying to dislodge the gumball and try CPR. Neither works.

The Scripps Ranch ambulance transports the man with the possible skull fracture to the hospital. It’s still not known what his condition is.

8:36 — Police ask dispatchers to expedite medics to the choking boy.

8:38 — Since Engine 38 finished helping the man, dispatchers send it to help Do. Dispatcher log: “a lot of confusion in the background … child possibly choked on a gumball, bleeding from the mouth and nose … was seizing.”

8:39 — Engine 38 arrives at the scene where Do is choking. The ambulance from Sorrento Valley arrives a few seconds later. Total response time: 9 minutes, 37 seconds.

8:44 — The ambulance transports Do to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

8:53 — The ambulance arrives at the hospital.

9:42 — Bentley Do is pronounced dead.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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