Miami Gardens police sergeant says lack of 911 response contributed to wife’s death

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – In a life-or-death situation when all else fails and you need help, you call 911. But what happens when no one picks up? For one man, he believes that is what led to his wife’s death.

“I was calling for help and they failed me. Nobody picked up the phone,” says Delroy Burgess.

Tears run down his face as he describes the final moments he held his wife and life partner of 35 years for the very last time.

“I saw her pass away in front of me because she didn’t get the help she deserved,” he tells Local 10 News.

It happened on Halloween night, just before 5. He received a call from his 65-year-old wife Rocklyn telling him she was having trouble breathing. That’s when Burgess, a Miami Gardens Police sergeant, called his captain and raced to his Hollywood home.

“(I) open the door, walk inside and she was sitting on the couch having trouble breathing,” he recalled.

He quickly called 911 but said no one answered his call for help.

“During that time, I noticed she stopped struggling and she just went limp,” said Burgess. “After it rang several times I hung up the phone and I called my dispatcher and I said, ‘Can you call rescue for me? My wife is unresponsive.’ "

Burgess says he called a second time and there was no answer again. Sadly, his wife lost her life.

“When you fail your citizens like this, lives are lost--I lost my partner of 35 years,” says Burgess in tears.

Local 10 News reached out to the Broward Sheriff’s Office that confirmed the first 911 call they received at 4:36 p.m. did go unanswered.

When the dispatcher tried to call back, no one picked up, according to BSO.

The second 911 call was received at 4:44. That call, they confirmed also went unanswered.

Ultimately, a Hollywood sergeant responded to Burgess’ home 14 minutes later with fire rescue arriving just a minute after that.

BSO sent this rundown of its logging of the incident.

  • The first inbound call came in at 16:36:49. The caller disconnected at 16:37:42.
  • A BSO 911 operator attempted to redial at 16:38:29. This call was not answered.
  • Based on the first hang up, a CAD event was created at 16:39:16. A Hollywood sergeant was notified of the call at 16:40:19. A Hollywood unit was dispatched at 16:47:02 and arrived on scene at 16:50:27.
  • The second inbound call came in at 16:44:37. The caller disconnected at 16:45:01.
  • A BSO 911 operator attempted to redial at 16:45:10. This call was not answered.
  • A Fire Rescue call was created after receiving a call from Miami Gardens Police at 16:44:24. Hollywood Fire Rescue arrived at 16:51:31.

Broward Sheriff’s Office sent this statement:

The Broward Sheriff’s Office is currently reviewing the handling of the emergency calls in this incident.

“I think they need to fix the system; lives depend on it,” says Burgess.

Local 10 News has been reporting about 911 calls going unanswered previously in Broward County. They’ve told us it is due to a lack of personnel. Since June, the commission said they’ve spent nearly 4 million dollars on 911 staff recruitment and salary increases. They said they’ve hired 74 operators but there are still 38 vacancies.

“The sheriff never told us that,” said Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller. “Obviously that caused an immediate uproar.”

BSO sent Local 10 News these tips to remember when calling 911:

  • Only call 911 in a true emergency. If your issue is not an emergency, call BSO’s non-emergency line at 954-764-HELP (4357).
  • When calling 911, don’t hang up. Your call will be answered. If you hang up and call back in, your call goes to the back of the queue.
  • If your call gets disconnected or you hang up, a 911 operator will call you back.

Local 10 News’ Trent Kelly contributed to this report.

About the Author:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.