Delays in Drowning Response Prompt New Loudoun Rescue Protocols, Review

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue is investigating the confusion around 911 calls that delayed the response the night 16-year-old Fitz Thomas died of an apparent drowning, and has already made a policy change to get first responders to the scene of incidents near Loudoun’s borders more quickly.

On June 4, Fitz Thomas was pulled from the water near the confluence of the Potomac River and Goose Creek, near the River Creek community at what is known as Confluence Park. First responders arrived to find him unresponsive, with CPR already being administered, and took him to Inova Lansdowne Pediatric ER where he was later pronounced deceased.

But the decision to dispatch crew initially had been delayed.

According to a statement from Loudoun Fire and Rescue, because calls came from close to the Maryland jurisdiction—the Potomac River is in Maryland—911 calls went to both Loudoun and Montgomery County, MD’s dispatch centers. That led to “extended efforts” to determine the emergency’s location, which delayed dispatching Loudoun units. How long of a delay is still under investigation; Loudoun Chief Keith Johnson said, “we’re still reviewing those timelines.”

Leaders from both jurisdictions are investigating.

Johnson said after that incident, one policy has already been changed to avoid delays in future incidents.

“We’ve instituted a new policy here already that, if we get a call in Loudoun County from somebody who says there’s somebody in the water, we’re dispatching units, I don’t care whose jurisdiction,” Johnson said. Previously, dispatchers had no clear guidance on what to do with calls near the Loudoun border.

At a march organized by the NAACP over the weekend, NAACP President Michelle Thomas recounted the delays in routing 911 calls and dispatching first responders to the scene. She said it took “almost 40 minutes without professional help.”

Johnson said he is reviewing recordings of all 911 calls, and Thomas said Tuesday she is  meeting with Johnson to hear those calls. Loudoun Now has requested recordings of those 911 calls.

[Editor’s Note: Additional statements on this issue made by Thomas during a rally on Sunday were removed from this article at her request due to a concern they would distract from the focus on the public safety concern.]

7 thoughts on “Delays in Drowning Response Prompt New Loudoun Rescue Protocols, Review

  • 2020-06-16 at 9:54 am
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    Wow. In a moment of tragedy the mom throws out the inflamatory race card with no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim. In any other situation, I’d give her a pass saying this was poorly stated in a moment of sorrow. However, Mrs. Thomas has been seeing racism under every rock she walks by. Seriously, Mrs Thomas, you need couseling. American is not that bad. Loudoun certainly isn’t. When you are claiming 911 dispatchers are being overtly racist in deploying life saving resources, then you need serious help.

    • 2020-06-16 at 10:38 am
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      Except she didn’t. Video of thre rally and her statement say otherwise.
      Please read her statement yourself:

      Dear media!
      Out of respect for my family we kindly ask that you keep our names out your mouth unless you speak to us first! We are grieving as a community and what you won’t do is gaslight a tragic incident for your insatiable conflict fettish! The emphasis of my speech at the BLM rally on Sunday was systemic change that disproportionately affect African Americans! Here’s the #FACTs, the inability to provide life saving assistance to our beloved son was the gross negligence and failure of several systems, 911, Loudoun County and Montgomery County fire and rescue. Fitz deserves justice, our county deserves change and you can keep your drama, because we refuse to be divided! You have taken my words out of context and have dishonored my son’s memory! We demand that you rewrite the article focusing on the known systemic failures of this case and the institutional change and failed policy that we seek to correct so that no other family in Loudoun will suffer this unimaginable pain! Don’t fail us in your reporting, be honorable, be decent, be helpful don’t fail Fitzy too! We will not allow you to leave this community for dead after this article!

      Loudoun I don’t have the energy to fight this foolishness today! As I mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare to listen to the 911 call for help with Chief Johnson! I need you to bombard the Loudoun Now editor and demand that the ending of the article is rewritten to reflect our family’s truth! This tragedy isn’t about race, it’s about failed policy, gross negligence and incompetence of emergency systems, that left our son for dead on June 4, 2020!

    • 2020-06-16 at 12:10 pm
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      You have grossly misinterpreted what Pastor Thomas did sir! And to assert she needs counseling, who are you?!! This mother lost her son and there was a significant delay in emergency response (40 mins or more). She did not throw out the “race card” as you suggest. She is concerned about the failure of the emergency response for her son and wants to understand the issue so it did not happen to any other person!

      Loudoun Now- Renss Greene You need to correct the innaccuracy of this article immediately. Best to do your due diligence BEFORE publishing. You have turned grieving mothers words against her!

    • 2020-06-16 at 2:03 pm
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      Hey, I went off what was orginally printed and now removed. Now, I don’t know if it was accurate or not. Loudoun Now is not a publication that generally needs a healthy dose of skepticism in what they print. I’ll go listen to the speech for myself.

    • 2020-06-17 at 7:20 am
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      With all respect for your opinion was it really necessary for you to put in print your thoughts on Pastor Thomas and her statements. I did not personally hear what she said but our county residents should all respect the families pain at this time! Sometimes keeping your thoughts to yourself are better than opening your mouth. The County failed her and her family with a system that did not respond. THAT IS THE ISSUE. As a current resident you should go after the County and the failed response period! We pay taxes that support a and rescue system that should have been on the scene immediately.

  • 2020-06-16 at 10:25 am
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    As I reached the conclusion of this article, you literally took my breath away as you misinterpreted what Pastor Michelle Thomas said at the march on Saturday. If this was not deliberate, if you were misinformed, you owe it to yourself and the Thomas family and the people of Loudoun County to make this right. Pastor Thomas is the only one who can tell you what that would be, but I know she is calling for a correction. Why should she have to deal with this as she grieves for her child? She shouldn’t. The community will deal with it along side her. Please, please, do not prolong her suffering with this piece of it. Act now. Thank you.

  • 2020-06-16 at 5:12 pm
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    Where’s the tape of her comments? Let The People hear it for themselves and decide.

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