Location: Delaware Township, Pennsylvania
Date: December 31, 1992
On the night of December 31, 1992 in Delaware Township, Pennsylvania, Tina Erb and her 10-year-old sister, Melissa, were spending their New Year's Eve at the home of Tina's best friend, 14-year-old Danielle Mali, while their parents were at a party up the street. "We were sitting watching TV and talking. And we had nothing to do," said Danielle.
"It was a boring night, so I told my sister to call one of my friends," said Tina. Melissa was trying to call Tina's friend on the portable phone, but accidentally reached 82-year-old Daniel Denney, who was in distress. "I got the wrong number. This old man was breathing heavily. I wanted to hang up, but I had a feeling that something was wrong," explained Melissa. He told her that he couldn't catch his breath, couldn't move, and was wheezing a lot. "She wasn't getting the friend we wanted to call," added Danielle. Melissa asked him if he wanted her to call an ambulance, so Danielle ran into the kitchen and picked up the phone. "They were all going crazy, so I took the phone away from Danielle. He sounded like he was in trouble and needed help," said Tina. She wrote down the information and got where he lived, how old he was, and what road he lived on, but not his name. They hung up and told him to stay on the phone because they were going to call the ambulance. They looked through a telephone book for the emergency number.
Tina called 911, and her call was taken by Pike County dispatcher Donna Post, who sent an ambulance to Denney's house. "She was a little excited which is understandable, but she gave me the information I needed," said Post. The girls called Denney back to assure him that the ambulance was on its way and that he would be all right. "He said, 'I'm sorry for ruining your New Years.' and I said, 'You're not ruining my New Years.' and he thanked me for helping him because no one would be there if I'd never called," said Danielle. Post decided to call the girls back to see if they could remember anything else. Danielle told Denney on the phone that she had another call and not to hang up. "I got Danielle and she said that she had the man on the other line, which was great," said Donna. She asked Danielle to hang up because she wanted to speak to Denney.
Post called Denney and was sure enough that he was having a very difficult time breathing. She told him that Pike County Communications was calling and asked him what was wrong. She asked him if he was in pain. "He was getting worse and I was ready to tell the ambulance to get there quick, but I didn't have to do that because they were there," said Donna.
Among the Delaware Township rescuers who responded was EMT Joseph Cuptin. "He was experiencing a heart attack and we had to take him to the hospital as soon as we could. The girls who unfortunately made a wrong number call to him saved his life," said Cuptin.
Post called the girls back and told them that the ambulance had arrived, and he was on his way to the hospital. She then thanked them for all their help. "I felt much better because I knew that he was in good hands and he would get better. Then we turned on the TV, and the 1993 ball dropped. It was the best New Years I'd ever had," remembered Danielle.
Denney was taken to the hospital and treated for congestive heart failure. While he was there, doctors also discovered a small malignant tumor, which they successfully removed. The girls got to visit him and he started laughing. "My wife passed away in 1985, and since then I've been pretty lonely," he explained.
Tina, Melissa, and Danielle considered Denney their adopted grandfather, because he had no grandchildren and both their grandfathers were dead. "I started to get back to enjoying my life. Now I've got friends and a family of my own, which I'd never had before," concluded Denney.