DALLAS - T-Mobile has sent its top engineers to Dallas to fix with the city calls a life-threatening problem with its mobile phones.
The T-Mobile 911 glitch started last fall, but they’re taking a harder look at the issue after the death of a 6-month-old boy Saturday night. There are questions about whether 911 delays contributed to his death.
Brandon Alex died over the weekend after his babysitter couldn’t reach anyone through 911. At the time, there was a spike in calls because T-Mobile phones were making “ghost calls” to 911. She blames T-Mobile’s problem for his death. City officials say it is something they are trying to get to the bottom of.
"Why my son have to be the example? Why do I have to be the one to stand up and talk for everyone?" said Bridget Alex, Brandon's mom. "This is not what I want to be doing. I want to be at home playing with my son. But at the end of the day, he's gone and nothing can bring him back."
The city said after a caller hangs up, their phone for some reason mysteriously keeps calling and overwhelms the 911 center. The problem only happens with T-Mobile phones.
The baby’s caregiver was using a T-Mobile device, but police are still investigating whether his death was directly linked to the problem. A medical examiner will determine his exact cause of death.
“The Dallas Police Department says an individual who we now believe was the child's caregiver, called 911 multiple times but hung up before speaking to a call taker. Call takers returned each call but were unable to reach the individual. The child was taken to two area hospitals,” the company said in a statement.
Dallas city leaders and T-Mobile representatives addressed the issue in a Wednesday press conference.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the situation very frustrating and the city manager says he takes full responsibility for what's going on at the call center.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said he spoke to the CEO of the company Tuesday and hopes the engineers will be able to finally resolve the “unacceptable situation.” He said Dallas residents deserve better.
“We are looking into every issue around this,” Rawlings said. “And we need to get the facts on every issue and every fatality around this.”
In addition to the spike in ghost calls on Saturday, there was another jump in 911 calls on March 6 with more than 360 calls on hold. Some people were on hold for more than half an hour.
The city says T-Mobile is the only carrier with the issue. AT&T, the city's network provider, confirmed the city's 911 infrastructure is not part of the issue.
The fix may be too late for a Dallas Voice reporter who said he lost his husband after claiming he was on hold with 911 for nearly half an hour.
Local newspaper reporter David Taffet shared his personal experience with Dallas' 911 system during the news conference.
“I want to make sure you understand you say keep your phone open,” he told Mayor Rawlings. “My phone was down here. I was doing chest compressions on my husband, and the call just dropped and I had to call back. So don't hang up? I didn't hang up.”
Taffet's husband Brian Cross stopped breathing on March 6 during another spike in so-called "ghost calls."
“I'm pounding on his chest. I’m screaming at the phone, and there was nothing I could do,” he recalled.
Taffet, who doesn't have a T-Mobile phone, said he had to call 911 twice. The second time, he got through after 20 minutes on hold.
“Somebody died and we don't know if it was a result of the delay from 911,” he said.
Rawlings promised answers to both Alex and Taffet.
“I talked to her and said my heart was broken for the loss of a loved one,” the mayor told Taffet. “And I'm sorry for you as well. And we're going to get to the bottom of this. I promised her that, and I promise you this.”
The mayor says they are in the process of training extra officers and staff on how to answer calls to help relieve the call takers and decrease the call load.
Unfortunately, it does not seem like they are closer to diagnosing and fixing the problem. In the meantime, the city urges residents not to hang up when dialing 911. It can cause further response delays.