No fault with emergency services’ response — coroner’s report 

But Kelty Dennehy found dead

A coroner’s investigation into the suicide of a local teen has found no fault with the response of emergency services.

After 17-year-old Kelty Dennehy’s death in March 2001 questions were raised about why the ambulance arrived at his home at the same time as his father who had made the 911 call from the ski hill.

Both arrived 27 minutes after Kerry Dennehy, the father, made the call to 911.

But the coroner’s investigation found that the response time of the ambulance was within acceptable norms, considering the call was not classed as an emergency.

"The call was categorized by the receiving dispatcher as a 25-A-1 meaning that according to the information he had received from the 3 rd party caller the patient was alert, non-violent, and non-suicidal," states the coroner’s report completed last October.

"The call would have been dispatched as ‘Code 2’ which is a non-emergency response. While in retrospect the categorization is now being questioned by the family, the caller did not relay any sense of emergency, responding to the dispatcher questions with phrases such as ‘I think paying a visit might be worthwhile’, ‘I think you should go by. Do you mind?’ and ‘You may not need… the sirens and all that.’"

The Dennehy family did not want to comment on the coroner’s report beyond suggesting to anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation to call a neighbour for help as well as 911.

The report states that the 911 call was received at 4:16 p.m. after Kerry Dennehy had spoken with his son by phone.

During the father-son conversation the report states Kelty sounded "very distraught and was crying when he told his father that he loved him three times and then hung up the phone."

Kelty Dennehy was described as a sensitive, intelligent and caring person.

He had been diagnosed as clinically depressed and was on an antidepressant.

The dispatcher called the Whistler Health Care Centre at 4:32 p.m. to request an ambulance. The delay by dispatch was due to the call not being classed as an emergency, states the coroner’s report.

At that time all three Whistler ambulances were stacked up at the centre waiting to admit patients.

An ambulance took the call to attend the Dennehy residence at 4:38 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 4:43 p.m.

When the attendants arrived they found Kelty Dennehy had hanged himself.

Bob Pearce, spokesman for the B.C. Ambulance Service, said there is a clear understanding at the Whistler Health Care Centre that if an emergency call comes into an ambulance while it is admitting a patient the nurses and doctors all work together to get the ambulance out as fast as possible.

"Our paramedics have a standing agreement with the nurses there that if an emergency call comes in then everything will be done in order to free up the stretcher so the ambulance can go," said Pearce.

It is B.C. Ambulance policy to have ambulance attendants stay with their patients until they are admitted to any health care centre.

In Whistler the average turn around time for an ambulance is 15 minutes.

"That is much better than many hospitals in the Lower Mainland," said Pearce.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which is in charge of the Whistler Health Care Centre, confirmed the policy.

"If (an ambulance) tells us that they have a Code 3 and they have to leave then we expedite the process, and find a bed or whatever immediately and take over so they can leave," said Viviana Zanocco, spokeswoman for the VCHA.

"But they have to tell us.

"And I understand from this incident it was not a Code-3 call.

"It is a small community and there is a good working relationship between the ambulance crews and (Whistler Health Care Centre)."

There are normally two ambulances stationed in Whistler. During the winter months, when demand increases, an extra ambulance is added.

Also, ambulances from Pemberton and even Squamish will be moved closer to Whistler if dispatchers see an increase in demand.

"It is like a net," said Pearce who believes the move to centralize 911 is a vast improvement over the old system.

"It bends but it doesn’t really break because there is always a car that is coming from another area."

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