Unavailable: Translator never answered during kidnapping 911 cal - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Unavailable: Translator never answered during kidnapping 911 call

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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) -- The director of Charleston County's Consolidated 911 Center says an internal investigation has already begun into why translators did not pick up the phone when a Spanish-speaking mother called.

He wants to find out why there was a breakdown with an outside company in providing translation services for a foreign language phone call. 

But he defends the use of that company because of its history of reliability.

"I've never heard of an interpreter not being available when we've called," said Jim Lake, the director of the county's 911 center. 

He doesn't know what happened when 911 telecommunicators called for a translator on Wednesday night.

A customer at a CVS Pharmacy on Highway 78 in Ladson called because the mother of an 8-day-old baby who was just abducted didn't speak English. After eight-and-a-half minutes on the phone, 911 officials couldn't reach a translator. 

At bond court Thursday night, Judge Linda Lombard had a similar problem.

"Sir, do you speak fluent Spanish?" asked Lombard.

The judge asked the husband to translate the court proceedings for his wife who didn't speak English.

Charleston County uses a company called Language Line to provide translation services. County leaders say it's an option that's always been reliable.

"We are officially inquiring from Language Line as to what the breakdown was. To see if this was a one-time occurrence or if this is a trend we might see in the future. But as I've indicated, we have not had that type of problem in the past," said Lake.

Of the 120 employees at the communications center, only a few are bilingual. That's why officials say the services of Language Line are needed.

"It's a big concern of ours that if we ask the wrong question or misinterpret that information, that we could be doing more damage than good," said Lake.

He says his telecommunicators followed protocol for Wednesday's child abduction case. Still, he's looking for answers.

"What concerns me is what broke down with this particular vendor, and what we can do to ensure that it doesn't happen again," said Lake.

Until county leaders understand exactly what happened this week, they say they'll continue to use Language Line for crucial translation services for emergency phone calls.

Officials from Language Line were unavailable for comment. County leaders hope to hear from them soon to find out exactly what happened.

ABC News 4 isn't sure if any of the officers who responded to the abduction case were bilingual.


  • Bill Burr

    Email: bburr@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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