The 81-year-old grandmother screamed for the emergency phone dispatcher to send an ambulance. Blood gushed from her left foot after a freak accident in her suburban Boynton Beach home.
"Help me! Help me, please! Help me! Help me!" Sidell Reiner pleaded in recordings obtained by the Sun Sentinel.
She never got that help. More than an hour after that phone call, her husband of 62 years came home to find her lifeless on their bedroom floor, and blood throughout the house. Sidell Reiner had died with the phone next to her, her family's attorney said.
Reiner's husband now wants answers to how phone operators heard her cries for help, yet she ended up bleeding to death last Thanksgiving. Seymour Reiner filed a lawsuit last week against Comcast, the couple's phone provider, and has filed notices of intent to sue the city of Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue as well.
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Reiner cut herself when a piece of crystal glassware fell on her foot as she was preparing the holiday dinner for her family. Her husband had left to pick up a grandson at the airport. The Reiners' three children hadn't arrived yet. She was home alone.
In a panic, Reiner dialed "0" and reached a Comcast operator. The operator transferred the call to a Boynton Beach police dispatcher, but Comcast was unable to find Reiner's address and give it to the emergency dispatcher, according to the suit filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court.
It took 16 minutes to pinpoint Reiner's address, establish she lived in unincorporated Palm Beach County and for county paramedics to arrive, according to the lawsuit. When paramedics did get there, they found the doors and windows locked, and attempted to look inside, according to Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue records.
When no one answered the door, the paramedics left, deeming the call "unfounded," the records show.
"Nobody took responsibility in saving her," said Gary Cohen, the family's attorney. "No one went that extra mile and did what they needed to do."
The negligence lawsuit filed against Comcast seeks an unspecified amount in monetary damages.
Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue spokesman Capt. Don DeLucia said that it appears paramedics followed procedure and that there has been no inquiry into the Nov. 26 response to Reiner's calls for help. He declined to answer further questions because of the litigation.
Boynton Beach Risk Manager Chuck Magazine said his city's dispatchers did what they were supposed to do — take the call and then transfer it to county fire-rescue once it was determined Reiner lived in unincorporated Palm Beach County.
Comcast spokeswoman Marta Casas-Celaya said her company does not comment about pending court cases and declined to answer general questions about services offered when a caller dials "0."
Someone who presses "0" on the Comcast phone line is greeted by an automated recording offering services in English and Spanish. After making a selection, the recording says: "If your call is a 911 emergency, please press 0."
Cohen said he doesn't understand why Comcast was unable to track down Reiner's address.
"They have her address when it comes to a bill, but when it comes to saving her life, they can't find her address?" Cohen asked.
Recordings of some of Reiner's calls that were transferred to police dispatch capture the words of a panicked woman. Cohen said she appears to have dialed "0" at least 10 times, but sometimes hung up without saying anything.
She repeatedly tried to give her address, but operators could not understand her because she was in such apparent agony.
"Sorry but, I I can't speak!" she screams when asked her address at one point. "I can't!" The phone is then disconnected again.
At another point, the Boynton Beach dispatcher asks the Comcast operator if she has the caller's address.
"Her phone number, when we put in her phone number, it is showing that there is no information available on that number," the Comcast operator says.
"Oh, goodness," the Boynton Beach operator responds.
Cohen said he doesn't how anyone could hear Reiner's desperate appeals and not communicate the evident seriousness of her condition to paramedics.
"This was a life-deciding call and there doesn't seem to be a lot of communication that this is a desperate situation," Cohen said.
The paramedics left at 9:47 a.m. Seymour Reiner and his grandson walked into the house more than an hour later, and discovered the body.
For more than six decades, the Reiners were at each other's side. They were married after Seymour served in the Navy during World War II. He owned a Manhattan dry cleaner, while she stayed home with the children and later did bookkeeping for the family business.
They retired to suburban Boynton Beach in 1996.
Reiner, 85, said in an interview that he wants to ensure that what happened to his wife doesn't happen to anyone else.
"It was a tragedy and it shouldn't have happened, but it did and nothing is going to bring her back," he said.