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Four disciplined for ambulance delay in fatal Queens fire

Two 4-year-olds were killed in a fire that

Two 4-year-olds were killed in a fire that tore through a Far Rockaway home and injured three others just before midnight on April 19, 2014, police said. Credit: Charles Eckert

Dispatchers missed repeated calls to send ambulance crews to the scene of a deadly blaze in Far Rockaway, Queens, that killed a pair of 4-year-olds, and four of the personnel have been suspended, the Fire Department said Friday.

Nearly 13 minutes elapsed between the initial 911 call and the first order to send an ambulance, according to a preliminary investigation.

Following the findings, the FDNY has removed a call center supervisor and three dispatchers.

The four, whose names were not disclosed, were suspended without pay for 30 days, the maximum allowed under civil service law.

An ambulance didn't get to the scene for nearly 21 minutes, officials have said. Mayor Bill de Blasio had ordered the review earlier this week to find out what took so long.

"Today's report offers the first steps needed to correct the mistakes of that evening, and the immediate measures outlined are appropriate," de Blasio said in a statement Friday. "We await the final results of the completed investigation, and stand ready to quickly and aggressively implement reforms needed to prevent something like this from happening again."

The blaze, caused by a child playing with a cigarette lighter, killed Jai'Launi Tinglin and Aniya Tinglin, half siblings, at the home at 10-31 Bay 30th St., according to police.

The first call came in April 19 at 11:51 p.m. Firefighters responded but an ambulance did not.

Under FDNY protocols, dispatchers usually do not send an ambulance until firefighters confirm one is needed.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens) has called for a policy change for ambulances to go to fire calls simultaneously with fire personnel.

"Lives are always at risk when a fire occurs," Crowley, chairwoman of the council's Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, said Friday.

The two-page memo released Friday was sent to de Blasio by Commissioners Mark G. Peters of the city's Department of Investigation and the FDNY's Salvatore J. Cassano.

Among other findings:

Firefighters on the scene radioed "10-75" at 11:57 p.m. -- code for a major fire requiring an ambulance response. For the next six minutes, dispatchers missed multiple requests for an ambulance.

Two of the center staff "were not in their assigned positions just prior to this incident" and "failed to ensure proper coverage" in their stead.

Several of the personnel involved in the incident had "prior disciplinary issues," including for mishandling calls.

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