Shortly after 6 a.m. on July 2, Ben McCloskey was biking on the MKT Trail when he came across a jogger who had collapsed on the path. McCloskey quickly biked to the nearest emergency phone, at the Stadium Boulevard entrance to the trail, only to find that the device wasn’t working.
McCloskey then turned around and biked back down the path, passing the still unconscious jogger, to a second phone, which he told police was also out of order. McCloskey continued on to the Forum Boulevard access to the trail, where he finally found an emergency phone that worked.
It was 6:38 a.m. when 911 dispatchers were alerted to the medical emergency. Less than 10 minutes later, paramedics and firefighters arrived and began efforts to resuscitate the jogger, Timothy Heinsz, former dean of the MU School of Law.
According to a police report, paramedics determined that Heinz had already been dead for “at least 20 to 30 minutes.”
McCloskey estimated that about 20 minutes elapsed from the time he found Heinsz face-down on the trail and he reached emergency dispatchers on the third phone he tried.
Heinsz collapsed on the gravel trail about halfway between the Stadium and Forum boulevard entrances, which are 1.3 miles apart.
“Had the phones been working,” McCloskey recalled, “I could have made the phone call and then started CPR. They are there with the assumption that they would work. I was only 30 seconds away from Stadium. If the phones weren’t there, I could have flagged someone down on Stadium for help instead.”
McCloskey said he got no response from the Stadium phone after pressing the call button several times. At the second phone, McCloskey said, he could hear emergency dispatchers but they could not hear him.
Later that day, McCloskey said he told city parks officials that two emergency phones along the trail were not working. Park Services Manager Mike Griggs said that immediately after his office was told about the faulty phones, all eight emergency phones along the 4.7-mile city stretch of trail were checked by the city’s Information Services. According to an e-mail response from the Parks and Recreation Department, the crew found that the Stadium Boulevard entrance phone was not operating.
The e-mail also said the phone near Stadium was still out of order on Tuesday. Parts to fix the phone were “promptly” ordered, the parks department wrote in response to inquiries, but have not been received and are expected this week. “The phone will be repaired as quickly as possible once the parts have been received,” the city response reads.
The Stadium phone was not marked as being out of order on Monday evening; the city said it would be marked by the end of the day Tuesday.
Bob Bailey, assistant dean of the law school, said relatives of Heinsz are aware of a phone problem but had no comment.
Griggs said that the phones were put in as a courtesy to the public and that he was not aware of any previous problems with the phones not working in an emergency.
The phones on the trail are checked monthly by Park Ranger Rosanna Arens. She said she has only found a faulty phone one time since she started her job in January. On that occasion, she said, she could hear the dispatcher, but the dispatcher could not hear her.
In addition to the monthly checks, Griggs said, members of the volunteer park patrol, the police department and Information Services also check the phones intermittently.
At times, the phones were being tested by so many people that it was tying up resources of the 911 dispatch center, the written response from the parks department said. “Up until now, the records for these inspections are not kept. We have now assigned Park Ranger Arens to inspect all of our 911 phones on a monthly basis and record the date and time of inspection.”
Currently, the eight phones along the MKT Trail between Flat Branch and Scott Boulevard are hands-free. Once the call button has been pressed, the phone is supposed to ring at the 911 center.