Wrongful death claim filed against 911, city of Omaha

Posted: 9:26 PM, Oct 24, 2017
Updated: 2017-10-26 18:15:39-04

A wrongful death claim has been filed against Douglas County 911 and Omaha first-responders.

Cristine Herek, 55, died as a result of an asthma attack. Her family claims an Omaha woman waited an hour and 40 minutes for help during a life-threatening emergency.

Herek was described as caring — someone who worked hard to put her life back on track. Now her family wants answers about why it took almost two hours, for help to arrive.

Herek,known to family and friends as "Tina," had a heart of gold, they said, giving back through her work as a case manager, and helping those on the road to recovery.

"She was clean and sober for about 10 years. And she dedicated her whole life to helping others," said her sister, Chancy Sigloch.

At 11:12 p.m. May 16, Herek called 911 while experiencing an asthma attack. It wasn't until 12:52 a.m. that Omaha Police officers found Herek's  unresponsive body on the front porch of her home in the 4300 block of Erskine Street, near 45th Street and Military Avenue. 

"By the time they got to her, she was on the front porch, outside in the middle of the night, and I guess there was a storm that night," Sigloch said. "She must have been panicking and probably going to run to the neighbors or something."

The distance from her house to the fire station is a four-minute walk, only a block away. 

"The thing I keep going back to is just the fear she must have felt, just the fear waiting for the 911 to show up. And them not showing up. Just the terror she must have felt and how long that was," Sigloch said. "They should have showed up."

Douglas County 911 dispatchers were unable to find Herek's address using her cell phone GPS.

Instead, 911 contacted Heartland Family Service, where she worked.

"They essentially called her work to try to find out where she was. And people at her work told them and tried to communicate, and we believe they called family," said Benjamin White, Herek's family attorney.

Her panicked friends and family made multiple calls to 911, but ultimately it would be an hour and 40 minutes before potentially life-saving help arrived. 

"It's just a shame that we... just got her back in our lives, and then she's gone for this," 

Herek's attorney said it's also unclear why Omaha Police were dispatched instead of EMS or the fire department. The county and the City of Omaha have six months to respond to the tort claim before the next step in legal proceedings.