911 calls reveal urgent pleas to help Jolene Waldref, Milwaukee Mayor responds to concerns over response

Posted at 9:28 AM, Feb 02, 2024

MILWAUKEE — Newly released 911 calls reveal urgent pleas to get 49-year-old Jolene Waldref help before she died in subzero condition.

Video from an apartment building shows Waldref arriving at her bus stop at 76th and West Congress Street in Milwaukee on January 15. Waldref was trying to get home after work at Life Touches Home Healthcare.

According to data from the National Weather Service, the wind chill at the time was -20.

Records show Waldref called 911 at 5:22 p.m. Right away, Waldref told the dispatcher that she could not breathe.

Milwaukee Police and Fire provided redacted records and audio from that night.

In a call from MFD, Waldref tells the dispatcher her location and that she is waiting for the bus. They ask her what happened.

"I don't know," Waldref responded.

Curtis Ambulance, a private ambulance company, arrived within minutes. The company's CEO later said that the crew could not locate Waldref, citing multiple factors, and said the 49-year-old was hidden by objects.

After checking the area for roughly 7 minutes left for another call. The crew never got out of their vehicle to look.

About 20 minutes after Waldref's 911 call, a bystander stopped to help and got first responders back out.

They were one of two citizens who called 911.

"We need emergency right now somebody. I called the police already," the caller is heard saying frantically.

First responders arrived and performed life-saving measures including CPR for nearly 20 minutes. However, Waldref, a mother of two who long worked as a caregiver, was pronounced dead shortly after 6 p.m.

"My first and initial reaction is certainly condolences. It really really is," Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said on Thursday.

The mayor's comments came a couple of days after Milwaukee Fire and Curtis Ambulance Service held a news conference and stated that procedures were followed. Their comments drew criticism across the community including from some Common Council members.

Mayor Johnson says that while first responders followed procedure there is work to do.

"This is one incident where something horrible has happened, but one time is too much right? So this is a time where we should be looking at those policies and see if there's any change that needs to happen," Mayor Johnson stated.

Earlier this week Curtis Ambulance Service's CEO Jim Baker initially stated he did not think there was a need to change protocol.

Over the phone on Thursday Baker said as a partner they are more than happy to work with fire and common council to see if any improvements can be made.

Waldref's official cause of death is still pending.