Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Choking victim's family to sue Pasco emergency services

Last spring, Nancy McGhee's boyfriend made a frantic call to 911.

His girlfriend was choking on a piece of steak, and he needed instructions on the Heimlich maneuver. The dispatcher wasn't trained to help him, so she asked her supervisor for help three times. He refused, saying "I am not getting on with a hysterical caller."

Seven minutes later, the supervisor got on the line to talk Chris Cooper through the Heimlich maneuver.

By the time paramedics arrived, McGhee, 37, was dead.

Today, her family's attorney is filing a notice of intent to sue Pasco County Emergency Services.

The family is seeking money — the maximum is $200,000 — and emergency services training for the county's dispatchers, said Tom Carey, the family's attorney. The county has six months to respond before a lawsuit is filed, Carey said.

McGhee's daughter, Crissy Cresong, did not return calls on Tuesday seeking comment.

It was 9:14 p.m. on March 24, 2007 when county dispatchers got Cooper's call.

In written accounts of the incident, dispatcher Jennie Montanino said after she and another employee were refused help by supervisor David Cook, lead communications officer Maureen Thomas said, "I am not getting on."

Thomas said she didn't remember being asked to help, or saying that she wouldn't get on the phone.

Eventually, Cook explained the Heimlich maneuver, which helps dislodge items from someone's windpipe, to Cooper, who put down the phone and tried it on McGhee.

"He left the freakin' phone," Cook said, according to the 911 tape.

When the maneuver didn't work, Cook passed the caller back to Montanino. Several dispatchers said Cook slammed the phone on his desk and said, "I'm over this already."

Cooper sobbed as McGhee died.

An ambulance came 11 minutes after Cooper called 911. Records show the closest rescue workers were fighting a house fire, so responders had to come from another district.

When word got back to the dispatchers that McGhee died, written accounts of the incident say Cook said: "She must have bitten off more than she can chew."

The county launched an investigation the next day.

Cook was placed on leave. Soon after, he took early retirement. Thomas eventually resigned.

McGhee's death prompted a policy change for the county's 911 dispatchers.

Before McGhee's call, only 18 of the 29 dispatchers had the required emergency training, which is not required by the state.

McGhee's death prompted county officials to order mandatory training for Montanino, the other emergency communications officers and new employees, said Barbara DeSimone, county personnel director.

"Two others just started a week ago, and they will be trained before they're assigned to a shift," DeSimone said. "They trained everybody right away. As new people are hired, they had this procedure where they took care of it right away.”

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Choking victim's family to sue Pasco emergency services 04/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:33am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rookie Kendell Beckwith pleased with first Bucs practice

    Bucs

    Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith is eight months and a week removed from November surgery to repair a torn ACL, so there was a proud sense of accomplishment in getting himself healthy enough to be on the field for the opening practice of training camp Friday.

    Bucs inside linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) defends tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the first day of training camp. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Criticism part of the game for Bucs' Gerald McCoy, who is chasing 'ghosts'

    Bucs

    Who crossed the line with their criticism of Gerald McCoy?

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy jokes with teammates during the first day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 28, 2017.
  3. Police make arrest in murder of 20-year-old Tampa man

    Crime

    TAMPA — A 20-year-old Tampa man has been arrested and charged with felony murder after a fatal shooting during a drug deal at a north Tampa apartment complex this week, records show.

    Alexeis Perez, 20, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Antonio Roman on July 26, 2017, at Tzadik Oaks, 1250 E 113th Ave., in Tampa. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Wimauma motorcyclist killed in Hillsborough County crash

    Accidents

    A Wimauma motorcyclist was killed Thursday night in a crash in Hillsborough County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  5. 3 wonderfully weird shows premiering next week: 'The Lowe Files,' 'What Would Diplo Do?' 'Comrade Detective'

    Blogs

    It seems like nothing is off limits on TV these days. Next week, three new shows air that I can't believe are really happening. They're all weird in their own ways, and I'm delighted. But let's be honest, at the point I'd probably watch a TV show about people coming up with TV shows. America has spoken, and we'll watch …

    Matthew, from left, Rob, and John Owen Lowe explore supernatural legends in A&E's new reality show "The Lowe Files."