Family lives through nightmare after several failed calls to 911
Helpless, hopeless, and horrible: those are the words family members and neighbors used to describe their moment of despair when they couldn't get a response from emergency personnel after an electrical box at their house caught fire. All after at least six calls to 911 failed.
"My husband was trying to get in touch with 911 and to his despair there was no answer. So he decided to call the police department. In the meantime, everybody was running around trying to get these people out."
Olga Munoz is talking about Sunday morning’s real life nightmare at her neighbors' home 206 West Mayberry Street in the Hillside Subdivision.
Their electrical box caught fire in the early dawn hours causing a power outage and then beginning to spread to the roof.
The couple in their 80's was frantic when their neighbors were unable to get through to 911.
"I got a house coat for Mrs. Tijerina because it was quite chilly. I got a towel and put it around Mr. Tijerina cause he was shivering. At this time Mr. Tijerina was screaming with his hands up in the air, 'Where are the firemen? Where are the firemen?' The firemen weren't coming fast enough because my husband couldn't get in touch with 911."
While Olga was next door trying to get her neighbors out of their burning home, her husband was at his home in the kitchen, not using just his cell phone, but his wife's cell phone and the phone book, flipping thought the yellow pages trying to get ahold of the police department because 911 wouldn't answer.
Her husband says he called 911 at least 3 times from both cell phones before he tried calling the police department's main number where he says they picked up right away.
"I’m surprised. I thought 911 is supposed to be there 24/7."
And they are, says a representative of the Laredo Police Department:
"According to our records, on the surface it appears that the first call that we got from him was our first phone call. We don’t have any record of him calling other than the first time that we actually picked up the phone."
Baeza also says that because he called from a cell phone instead of a land-line, the call could have failed for unknown reasons.
But City Manager Carlos Villarreal says in this day and age too many people have resorted to using cell phones over a land-line and the city's 911-call center has to be able to accept calls regardless of its origin:
"If we need to bring in the technicians related to 911 or to any other technical phase of related programs, we're certainly going to do that."
For now, the Tijerinas are being looked at for smoke inhalation.
According to their son, Mr. Tijerina, who is 86, is in the hospital:
"By the time they got any help here form the fire department, I think it really affected my dad. But he's at Mercy Hospital getting special care for his lungs and treatment."