Dispatch confusion at center of La Porte drowning investigation


Many small cities like Shore Acres don't have their own fire or EMS services or even dispatchers. La Porte is contracted for fire and a private company covers medical and dispatching is handled by the Lakeview Police Department. This is an example, some say, of too many agencies involved in time of trouble.

On Saturday afternoon on the waters off Shore Acres, the wind whipped a boat's mast so hard two people were injured. One was thrown overboard. Somehow, the person less injured got the other back on board, and they headed back toward the Houston Yacht Club for help.

"Hey uh, can you send first responders over to Houston Yacht Club?" That was the request for help from the dispatcher from the Lakeview Police Department, which handles calls for Shore Acres. The police officer tells us he asked for "manpower" though, not first responders, that he specifically asked La Porte for help because it has the fire department contract for services in Shore Acres.

Dispatcher 1: La Porte police, this is Chantelle...

Dispatcher 2: This is CLEMC. We called Seabrook and they said they don't first respond for Shore Acres.

Dispatcher 1: We don't either. We just talked to our fire department.

Dispatcher 2: All right thank you.

Dispatchers spent some time trying to figure out who does respond.

Dispatcher: Station 4 said it's not us, it is Seabroook. So I don't know why Seabrook doesn't know that but I told Station 4 that's not our jurisdiction, so they're not going.

In the end La Porte refused, saying it is only contracted for fire and rescue services in Shore Acres.

La Porte Fire: It's good you called me on the radio, 'cause now its out there for the whole world to hear... That's a cover your butt deal.

Whatever term the officer used in asking for assistance, Shore Acres interim police chief Mike Massey says his officer should not have been going this alone for so long.

"He wanted help. He needed help," Massey said.

Some city leaders were infuriated by the confusion over a response. We played the recordings for Alderwoman Nancy Schnell.

"Wouldn't you expect somebody to immediately say we're on it?" we asked Schnell.

"Absolutely, instead of talking about contracts," she said.

Ultimately the Port of Houston and the company that is privately contracted to do EMS in Shore Acres did respond. Whether that boaters life could have been saved had help arrived soon, no one has been able to say her today for sure.

Find Kevin on Facebook at ABC13KevinQuinn or on Twitter at @kquinn001

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