It took 10 calls to 911 and almost 30 hours for paramedics to reach Curtis Mitchell. But by the time they made it to his Hazelwood, Pa., home, he was dead.
"I sat up here with him, watching him die," Mitchell's longtime girlfriend, Sharon Edge, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They didn't do their jobs like they were supposed to."
Pittsburgh officials, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, apologized to Mitchell's family and have enacted a new policy for responding to emergency calls.
"We should have gotten there," Public Safety Director Michael Huss told members of the local media. "It's that simple."
So why didn't they?
The Pittsburgh area was buried in 2 feet of snow when Mitchell, 50, began calling emergency dispatchers around 2 a.m. on Feb. 6. In his first 911 call, he complained that his "entire stomach was in pain," according to a report by Dr. Ron Roth, medical director for Pittsburgh's Public Safety Department. His symptoms were judged to be non-life-threatening.
After two hours passed without paramedics showing up, Mitchell placed a second call, learning an ambulance was stuck in the snow near a local bridge. He was asked if he could walk four blocks to meet the ambulance, but he said his pain was too severe. The call was canceled.
After another hour and another call from Mitchell, a second ambulance got stuck at the same bridge, its crew unaware that it was the second group to attempt to reach Mitchell, as the call histories were not noted by dispatchers. First-responders again asked Mitchell to come to them, according to Roth's report.
"If he wants a ride to the hospital, he is just going to have to come down to the truck," a medic told the dispatcher.
Mitchell's call was canceled for the second time.
Over the next 10 hours, Mitchell's symptoms intensified along with the number of calls to 911 from across the snowed-in Pittsburgh area. Limited availability became a factor in reaching Mitchell, who eventually was unable to call for help himself. Edge took over, telling dispatchers her boyfriend was suffering shortness of breath after a full day of contacting medics for care.
In a late call, Edge said she "could not get him up" after he took sleep and pain medications. Roth's report said a doctor who spoke with Edge was convinced Mitchell had taken prescribed pills and gone to sleep. Mitchell and Edge had made calls from 11:17 a.m. through 9:15 p.m on Feb. 6.
The final 911 call from the Mitchell home came at 8 a.m. Feb. 7. Edge was screaming; Mitchell was non-responsive and cold. Paramedics finally arrived, but it was too late.
The cause of Mitchell's death has not been determined yet, as toxicology reports are pending, according to the Post-Gazette.
Ravenstahl called the handling of Mitchell's situation "unacceptable," promising that EMS protocol would be changed to take note of a caller's history. He is weighing disciplinary action against the ambulance crew.
There are apologies, but Edge told Pittsburgh's WPXI-TV she can't accept them.
"Someone should be held responsible. The paramedic or the city," she said. "Someone has to be held responsible."