Dispatch sent firefighters to wrong address at fatal fire

The coroner said it is unclear if the victim would have survived had firefighters arrived 5 minutes sooner

The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Luzerne County 911 originally dispatched crews to Conyngham borough instead of Conyngham Township to respond to a recent fire that resulted in the death of Michelle Ann Dzoch, county records show.

Dispatch logs indicate firefighters were sent to Main Street in Conyngham borough, which is in the Hazleton area, at 10:47 a.m. on May 15.

A dispatch to the correct address on Main Street in the Mocanaqua section of Conyngham Township near Shickshinny was issued five minutes later at 10:53 a.m., records show.

County officials suspended two 911 dispatchers without pay amid an investigation into the emergency call center's handling of the fire call, though they have declined to release specific details.

State police also investigated but have not issued a report.

County union head Paula Schnelly confirmed the suspensions last week in a written statement and said a formal hearing is pending with the employees, county and union.

"It is my understanding that an investigation is taking place, and the union is not aware, at this time, of the county's findings or of any outside agencies' involvement," wrote Schnelly, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

County Manager Robert Lawton and Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri have declined comment, saying the matter is a confidential personnel issue.

Police said the fire at a Main Street home in the township's Mocanaqua section was caused by children playing with a lighter.

County Coroner William Lisman ruled Dzoch's death was accidental and caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. He said he cannot pinpoint the exact time of death or determine if summoning crews five minutes earlier would have made a difference. The property was heavily damaged by the time Dzoch's remains were accessible for examination.

"The greatest pathologist in the world couldn't say the exact time she died. It's an impossibility," Lisman said.


(c)2014 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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