Steve Kortely says his wife, Linda, of 34 years died after their Castalian Springs home caught fire. He believes the Sumner County Emergency Communications Center, or ECC, swept her death under the rug.
According to internal investigation documents News4 obtained from the ECC, 911 dispatcher Alaina Restivo received a phone call from Elsten Security Services on June 8, 2018 at 9:50 a.m. about a fire alarm at 1113 Harsh Lane in Castalian Springs. In the 911 call, Restivo is heard asking "so you said 113 Harsh Lane?" The woman with the security company is heard in the 911 calling answering "yes." There's a major problem with crews getting dispatched to 113 Harsh Lane -- the Kortely home is located at 1113 Harsh Lane, approximately four miles away.
The internal investigation shows Restivo dispatched crews to 113 Harsh Lane and found no fire and the crews returned to the fire station. Two hours later, Kortely says he and his nephew returned home from a doctor's appointment and found Linda trapped in their sunroom and called 911.
“We found her on the floor at the end of the coffee table,” said Kortely. “We take her outside and give her CPR and we did get a pulse.”
Kortely says Linda died at the hospital.
“I truly believe she would still be alive here today if they got here when the alarm goes off.”" said Kortely. “It’s something no one should ever go through.”
The ECC's internal investigation finds Restivo violated policy by failing to verify the address at least two times. Restivo was given three days unpaid suspension. She also had to complete a Performance Improvement Plan.
As part of the plan, Restivo was required to develop a pattern of verifying the address, then the phone number, then asking "OK, tell me exactly what happened." An operations manager would also required to randomly review her calls each day, at least five on each shift. Restivo had to achieve an error rate of 1% or less to successfully complete the Performance Improvement Plan.
New4's investigation found Restivo is still working at the ECC. The ECC's attorney confirms she also received a promotion to training supervisor.
“When you told me that girl just got disciplinary action and Linda lost her life, I would have gotten fired and sued," said Margaret Davis, a friend of the Kortely family.
News4 reached out the the director of the Sumner County ECC, Paul Harsbmeier, asking how this happened and what the department is doing to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. He directed News4 to his attorney, Leah May Dennen.
In an email, Dennen tells News4:
"Given the nature of this event, I do not think it is appropriate for us to discuss these questions. As you may be aware, we have recently made multiple changes to our ECC and we are confident in the positive direction we are going."
The Sumner Counter ECC has received criticism over the last several months about reports of dispatchers sending crews to the wrong address. In January, the former director, Rhonda Lea, and her assistant director, Jeff Wright resigned.
Hendersonsville Fire Chief Scotty Bush estimates, county wide, crews were getting dispatched to wrong addresses 40 times a month last year. Monday, he tells News4 the Sumner County ECC has made dramatic improvements since Harbsmeier took over as director and the number of mistakes are declining. He says the department is emphasizing training for dispatchers.
News4 also reached out to Elsten Security Services, which is heard in the 911 saying "yes" when the 911 dispatcher says the wrong address. The CEO and president of Elsten Security Services, Tommy Elsten, tells News4 he subcontracts out three companies, including Net Alert, to handle all 911 calls. He says he has addressed the issue with Net Alert and was assured proper action would be taken. He also added that Net Alert is in charge of setting its own guidelines for its employees who make the 911 calls.
"You can still have operator error no matter how much you try to push rules... there's no excuse for that," said Elsten.
News4 reached out to Restivo and she did not want to comment.
You can read the Sumner County ECC's internal investigation here: