Students on bus make phony 911 call about 'people dying' in fire, get visit from police

PICKNEY, MICH. - Three Pinckney area elementary-age students had a lesson in the proper use of emergency communications after making prank 911 phone calls as they rode the bus from school Tuesday. 

Unadilla Police Chief Dave Russell said his department, along with Livingston County Sheriff's deputies, Michigan State Police troopers, fire and EMS, were dispatched after someone called 911 reporting a house fire on Spears Road in Putnam Township. A second call came a few minutes later about a house fire on Spears Road in Unadilla Township.   

"One of the statements...was people were dying inside," said Russell. 

Russell said dispatchers noted the caller sounded young, and that laughter could be heard in the background. 

After police confirmed there was no house fire at either location, Russell reacted to an instinct as he spotted a school bus on Spears Road. 

“I went on the bus and explained to the kids what was going on,” Russell said. “There were only two phones, so it didn’t take long to figure out where the call came from."

Three students turned over the phone from which the calls originated, but wouldn’t confess which of them made the call.

Russell said he talked to the kids and also made a visit to each of their parents. 

“I made sure the children had a solid understanding that 911 is for emergency only,” he said, noting the parents were understanding of his concerns. 

"I'm confident they all handled it well," he said. 

The phone used to make the prank calls, he added, had no call plan. 

"The parent just gave it to the child for emergencies and to play games," he said. "The only way to dial out to make emergency call." 

It wasn't clear which school the bus was coming from. 

Pinckney Community Schools Superintendent Rick Todd did not immediately return a request for comment.

“Based on the information we received from dispatch, I had a hunch the call might have come from kids on the bus,” Russell said, noting he asked dispatchers to alert the bus driver, who pulled over to wait for police. 

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© 2017, Livingston Daily


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