Barnstable Sheriff’s Dept. Investigating 911 Call

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV

MASHPEE (CBS) — It was a frantic 911 call by Brent McFarland trying to save his fiancée Kate’s life who was choking on a marshmallow at his home off an unmarked road in Mashpee.

In the call you can hear McFarland pleading to Kate to “stay with him” and asking a Barnstable County dispatcher for an ambulance because his fiancée was choking.

In the Barnstable County Sheriff’s contract for 911 services with Mashpee it clearly states if it’s necessary to provide the caller with pre-arrival instructions the Sheriff’s department will be available to stay on the line and provide this service.

WBZ has learned the call was handled by Barnstable County Sheriff’s dispatcher Rhonda Colburn. Colburn initially asks some questions in the 12-minute call but never provides any follow-up medical instructions to help. 

Dispatcher: “What is she choking on?”
McFarland: “I have no idea, she’s foaming at the mouth.”
Dispatcher: “She’s what?”
McFarland: “She’s foaming at the mouth, hold on Kate!!”
Dispatcher: “Do you know the Heimlich?”

Right now the Sheriff’s Department is investigating what took place during the call. 

There are also questions about the time it took Mashpee’s emergency crews to arrive on scene. It took them six and a half minutes to travel three miles to find McFarland’s home.

The emergency call happened on September 4th in the wake of Hurricane Earl.

Chief George Baker says “It’s very unfortunate, a young woman died. Our response was hampered a little due to weather, a very dark road, and poorly numbered homes and mailboxes. We reviewed our response to the call and my folks acted consistent with medical practice and responded as quickly as they could.”
McFarland believes the town’s failure to properly mark his road and to include it on official maps directly contributed to Kate’s death.

He says he felt completely helpless as he watched Kate’s life slip away, he tried the Heimlich maneuver several times but nothing worked. 

The sheriff’s department has launched an internal investigation.  It says its dispatchers go through 72 hours of certified training which includes some training in emergency medical dispatch.  

A spokesperson wouldn’t say if Colburn was still on the job.


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