When Lillian Martinez saw a motorcyclist spin out of control in a swirl of dust, she thought she knew just what to do.
In a first aid class in El Segundo, she had learned that land-line phones were more reliable for dialing 911 than wireless phones. If you must use a cellphone, her instructor told the class, make sure you give the dispatcher specific information about your location.
She remembered that lesson on this day in December 2005, as she rode with her son on Pershing Drive near Los Angeles International Airport.
Her son parked the car. As the two of them ran toward the victim, Martinez pulled out her cellphone.
After waiting for about five minutes, Martinez said, she got through to a CHP operator. "Pershing is the street just west of LAX," she recalled saying.
He asked for a cross street.
She said there wasn't a cross street. Pershing runs south for about a mile from her location and crossed Imperial Highway at the El Segundo border.
"It's the first street west of LAX. I don't know what else to tell you," Martinez recalled saying.
The motorcyclist was "was crumpled on the ground," recalled Martinez's son, Anthony Stier, conscious but unable to move.
As his mother dealt with the dispatcher, Stier said, he flagged down an LAPD vehicle. The officer reported the emergency on his radio.
Nearly 15 minutes after she first dialed 911, Martinez said, she was still on the line with the CHP.
She said she was ready to hang up and call the El Segundo Fire Department.
Then a firetruck rolled onto the scene, apparently alerted by the LAPD officer or another caller.
Martinez said she was unsure what became of the man, who was taken away by ambulance.
The CHP was unable to say why its dispatcher couldn't locate Martinez. Officials said 911 phone records for that period had been lost.
"It makes me feel very frustrated," Martinez said. "We're talking about life-and-death situations."