ORLANDO, FL – A language barrier between a 911 dispatcher and a frantic, Spanish-speaking elderly man calling to report a shooting on Sunday delayed help to a dying woman, a tape of the call has revealed.
Mireya Maria Alvarado, 65, was shot in the chest by robbers about 2:30 a.m. while working at her food truck on Colonial Drive west of Old Cheney Highway.
In a recording of the 911 call obtained Thursday by the Orlando Sentinel, the caller, 83-year-old Rene Martinez, can be heard screaming desperately, “Español! Una ambulancia, por favor,” at the operator, who couldn’t understand him and mistook him for a woman.
“Does anybody there speak English?” the dispatcher asked.
There’s no evidence from the 911 audio that the dispatcher transferred Martinez to a service that provides translators to callers who don’t speak English.
Once it’s clear that a caller speaks no English, dispatchers usually ask if an English speaker is available, said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, whose 911 center answers the calls. If not, the call is transferred to the translation service.
Last year, dispatchers were able to get a translator on the 911 line in Orange County in less than six seconds on average, said a spokesman for Language Line Services, which contracts with Orange police and fire agencies.
On Sunday, 97 seconds passed from the start of the call before an English-speaking man got on the phone with the dispatcher after Martinez flagged him down.
Martinez can be heard seeking the man’s help: “Excuse me, you Spanish, English? Telephone, please,” Martinez pleaded to the unidentified man. Martinez tried in broken English to explain what had happened.
“Bah, bah, a lady, yah, shot a bullet, by a bullet,” Martinez said.
At that point, the dispatcher still was not aware that Alvarado had been shot, the 7 1/2-minute call indicates.
Find the entire article by Susan Jacobson at the Orlando Sentinel <here>