On the eve of the three-year anniversary of Kyle Plush's death, the city of Cincinnati has agreed to pay $6 million to the teenager's family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, the second-largest settlement in city history.
The suit was filed after police and 911 center workers failed to rescue the teen, who died after he became trapped under the seat of the minivan he drove to school.
Plush voice-called 911 on April 10, 2018 from the parking lot of Seven Hills School where he was trapped inside a Honda Odyssey. Help never arrived. His death prompted months of city hearings and allegations that the 911 center wasn't property staffed or trained, and in August 2019 the Plush family sued the city.
The city sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman said no.
In the settlement, announced at 4 p.m. Friday, the city is also pledging to make more improvements to the 911 center, which begins with $250,000 to hire three outside experts to look at the city's 911 operations. Oversight will last five years, the settlement says and it also stipulates that improvements recommended by the experts must be made.
Another review of why help never reached Kyle will also be done.
"One goal will be to assess the actions or inactions ECC call takers and first responders that contributed to death of Kyle Plush and the adequacy of the subsequent measures taken by the city to address those issues," the settlement says, noting that, the 911 center workers and police officers may be re-interviewed.
Kyle's parents Ron and Jill Plush spoke with the media Friday evening at Daniel Drake Park in Kennedy Heights.
"We miss our son Kyle terribly," Jill Plush said. "We'd do anything to have him here today."
Kyle, she said, would want his death tomean something.
The settlement is about, "improving safety for the citizens of Cincinnati," Jill Plush added.
Ron Plush said the last three years have been "a long journey."
"Of course we don't want to be here," said the family attorney, Al Gerhardstein. "We'd like to roll back the clock and have them find Kyle. But we can't do that."
Cincinnati City Manager Paula Boggs Muething said in a statement, "We will work every day to ensure that our city never again experiences a tragedy like the one suffered by the Plush family. The City is dedicated to providing the most professional emergency response to all Cincinnatians.”
Gerhardstein said it was important to secure a civic commitment to continuous improvement.
"With this agreement the city manager commits to continue reforms in an enforceable, transparent way that will make the City safer for everyone," Gerhardstein said.
It's the second-largest settlement in city history. The city of Cincinnati paid $6.5 million dollars in 2006 to the family and attorneys of Roger Owensby, who died in police custody in 2000, according to Enquirer research.
Kyle's death made national news. He became trapped in his Honda Odyssey minivan, where he was readying for a tennis tournament.
He became pinned under the minivan's third-row seat, but still managed to twice call 911 by voice activating his phone that was in his pocket.
The lawsuit outlined how Plush provided his location, but mistakes in the 911 center didn't provide enough information to officers in the field and that the officers didn't get out of their car or search the parking lot where Kyle was inside the van. In was Ron Plush, who was looking for his son later that night, who found Kyle.
Ron and Jill Plush implored city leaders during public meetings to improve 911. But they wanted the city to do more than it was to improve the 911 center. The Enquirer found failings at the 911 center before Plush's death.
The Plush lawsuit had named the city, former City Manager Harry Black, two 911 call takers and two police officers.
In the wake of Kyle's death, the city spent more than $100,000 on three prior investigations that exonerated the call takers and officers of all wrongdoing. It has since improved training, hired additional staff and upgraded the 911 system so people can enter information about themselves.
After Kyle's death the Plush family started Kyle Plush Answer the Call Foundation, which advocates for best practices at 911 centers across the county. That work will continue, Ron and Jill Plush said Friday.
Boggs Muething outlined improvements already made to the 911 center:
- A changing in leadership.
- Embracing data-based approaches.
- Insuring higher retention rates of ECC employees.
- Call response times that exceed national standards.
- Upgrading mapping software in police vehicles with 911 caller locations.
- Amending procedures to emergency calls classified as “unknown trouble,” which allow officers to have a better sense of the urgency of the call.
As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to appoint an expert team to assess and advise on recommendations for current ECC operations, work that will be shared with public.
Bill Vedra, who took over as director of Cincinnati's Emergency Communication Center after Plush's death, sent a video message to communication center employees Friday afternoon saying the city would making improving the center a "top priority."
"The settlement also acknowledges how far we've come as a center, making improvements these last three years," he said. "We just going to continue on that path of improvement by always looking for ways to get better."