Location confusion may have delayed response to pond crash that killed 2 children
Officials are investigating whether incorrect data in the county's GIS mapping system slowed down the arrival of first responders
South Bend Tribune, Ind.
MISHAWAKA, Ind. — Incorrect data in the county’s GIS mapping system may have caused a delay in emergency personnel arriving at the scene of a crash that killed two kids on University Drive on Tuesday, St. Joseph County’s 911 dispatch center’s executive director said.
According to Ray Schultz, executive director of the dispatch center, the first 911 call after a minivan slid off the road and became submerged in a retention pond came from the intersection of University Drive and Fir Road. That prompted the 911 center to dispatch EMS personnel from Clay Fire Territory as the dispatch center’s mapping system “validated” that intersection as Clay’s jurisdiction. In reality, that intersection falls under the Mishawaka Fire Department’s jurisdiction, Schultz said.
“Ideally it would validate in the city because that’s who owns the intersection. It just needs to be adjusted in the map layer for the GIS department,” Schultz said.
James Kleven, 4, and Natalie Kleven, 2, of Granger, both died in Tuesday’s crash. Their mother, Brooke Kleven, 31, and a 3-month old sibling, Hendrik Kleven, remain in critical condition.
According to a recording of the dispatchers from Tuesday afternoon, Clay Fire Territory units were initially dispatched. A dispatcher is heard trying to pinpoint the location of the incident, at one point thinking it’s the nearby Costco. Shortly after, the correct location was identified, and the dispatcher can be heard telling Clay units to disregard because the incident would be handled by Mishawaka first responders.
Whether that confusion caused a delayed response by EMS personnel is unclear. Schultz said the dispatch center is conducting an internal investigation into the case, but won’t be able to make conclusions until a timeline is finalized.
“There’s a lot of things in play for us to decipher; was there a delay or was there not,” Schultz said. “It’s hard to say either way.”
Brian Thomas, Mishawaka’s EMS Division Chief, declined to comment on Tuesday’s incident in light of the ongoing investigation. However, he estimates jurisdictional confusion happens a couple times a month, but said it doesn’t necessarily delay the response time of emergency personnel.
The area’s first responder units work well together, Thomas said, and will often help each other if units from one jurisdiction are closer to a call or already en route to a scene.
“If we get dispatched, we go,” Thomas said.
Even though dispatchers told Clay units to disregard Tuesday’s call, those units continued to the scene because they realized the seriousness of the incident, Schultz said.
Schultz called cases with incorrect data, which can arise when cities annex new property or when businesses change names, a rare occurrence and said the center fixes them on a case-by-case basis. When instances pop up, dispatchers notify the GIS department to get the location registered correctly.
“They’re pretty rare thankfully these days, but this was unfortunately one of them,” Schultz said.
Schultz said the investigation into the dispatch center’s handling of the case is standard procedure, though a press release sent out Thursday evening states the review will determine “whether any disciplinary action is in order under these circumstances.”
Schultz also confirmed that one call taker is currently on paid leave — for non-disciplinary reasons — in relation to the case.
The county’s dispatch center recently switched to a new computer-aided dispatch system. Since Nov. 12, the center has been using a $3 million system from Motorola after problems with the center’s previous provider, Tyler Technologies, prompted the county’s board of commissioners to seek new proposals in July of 2018.
County officials criticized the Tyler Technologies system, claiming it didn’t allow dispatchers to validate addresses of 911 callers in cases where the street name existed in different municipalities. That led to dispatch delays and wrong addresses being sent to first responders.
Schultz said the issue in this case was not related to the new Motorola system.
“The good news is that as long as we get a validation, regardless of what agency is going, someone is going,” Schultz said. “Help is on the way.”
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