Apache, Navajo county residents unable to call 911 due to days-long Frontier outage
ST. JOHNS, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - People living in St. Johns and parts of Apache and Navajo county went days with no way to call 911 or even communicate with anyone because they were dealing with an outage from Frontier Communications.
City officials and residents said the company showed no urgency to fix it, and this isn’t the first time they’ve dealt with an outage like this. Officials said at least one person died during the outage and other residents scrambled for medical assistance, unable to call for help.
In an instant, Breonna Ellington’s 5-year-old daughter was hurt, impaled by a rod while playing with her sister this weekend. She was bleeding badly; it was an emergency. “That was the worst feeling in the world not being able to call, and need help,” said Ellington.
The Ellington’s, nor anyone in St. Johns and other parts of Apache and Navajo counties could call 911 or get any communication out by phone or internet after officials said one of Frontier’s fiber lines was vandalized — knocking out all communication. “If this happened in the Valley in the Phoenix suburbs or community around Phoenix, it would be completely unacceptable,” said Lance Spivey, the St. Johns Police Chief.
Chief Spivey said this same issue has happened with the same wire before, where Frontier took hours to fix it. Back in February, at a Corporation Commission meeting, a Frontier representative admitted repairs took a long time and said, “We do take our responsibility to address those situations and repair the facilities quickly as very seriously.”
Frontier is disputing claims of a weekend-long outage and said the 911 outage only lasted an hour. Officials however say the outage lasted from Saturday until Monday which prompted Chief Spivey to send a letter to the Corporation Commission this week asking them to initiate an “order to show cause” proceeding to hold Frontier accountable.
Spivey was emotional talking about it. “We took an oath to protect people, and when this system fails, our partner fails, we can’t do our job,” he said with tears in his eyes.
The length of the outage affected so many. Spivey said a 74-year-old man was found lying on his floor dying. His friend couldn’t call 911, so they physically ran to try and find an ambulance but were too late, and the man died on the way to the hospital, which was more than an hour away.
As for the Ellington’s, they drove to the nearest hospital only to find more issues. “When we got there, all of their internet and phones were out,” said Ellington.
They weren’t able to operate on her daughter or communicate with other hospitals or doctors because of the outage. Eventually, the Ellington’s drove four hours to Phoenix Children’s Hospital to be able to get her daughter an inch and a half worth of stitches. “I just hope that it never happens to any other mom ever again,” she said.
Luckily, the Ellington’s had cash with them because the gas stations in the area couldn’t take cards during this, so they were only able to fill up their tank to get to Phoenix with cash.
Arizona’s Family reached out to Frontier Communications who said Wednesday morning:
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