Toronto father says infant went ‘limp’ choking during 5-minute hold with 911

A father says he is still in shock after resuscitating his baby himself after being put in a hold queue by Toronto’s 911 system when he called for help.

Tim Ray, the father of one-year-old Asher, said the incident began innocuously: his son was choking on cereal, and the family tried to pat him on the back to clear the blockage in his throat.

When that didn’t work, his parents tried putting him on the floor — and it didn’t work. “At that point I was like, ‘Call 911’,” Ray told Global News Radio 640 Toronto.

The 911 call, however, was not quickly answered.

A spokesperson for Toronto police told Global News that the call from the Ray household was logged at 6:54 p.m. and put in a queue. It was not answered for five minutes and 23 seconds, at which point Tim Ray and his wife had given up on a response.

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By the time the call was answered at 7 p.m., Toronto police said there was no one there.

Ray said he said they should rush into the street looking for help, as his infant battled to breath.

“I can’t even explain the visual of him going from struggling — just like from choking to silent,” he said. “The fixation, the struggling with his arms in the air and then his body gives up and he just goes limp.”

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Ray said his efforts are still a “bit of a blur” but he gave his child something like a Heimlich maneuver and then breathed into his mouth and eventually felt him begin to cry and respond again.

At the same time, the family logged another call to 911 — Toronto police said that call came in 7:02 p.m. and was again placed in a queue. It was answered at 7:07 p.m. and transferred to paramedics.

By that point, Ray said he had succeeded in saving his child’s life.

The family are still recovering from the trauma of the experience, Ray said, reminding people to revisit CPR training.

“What’s the whole point in calling 911 if you’re getting put on hold like you’re calling Rogers?” he asked.

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Toronto police said it was “aggressively working to improve” 911 call times, acknowledging that some calls took longer than they should.

“During an emergency, residents of our city who call 9-1-1 expect and deserve to receive a timely response,” a spokesperson said.

“We understand this would have been a very traumatic event for the family. Our call centre receives approximately 2 million calls annually, over 1 million of them 9-1-1 calls.”

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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