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Community calls for change after family crashes into retention pond

NOW: Community calls for change after family crashes into retention pond

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- Community members are calling for a change in the area of a retention pond near the intersection of University Drive and University Drive Ct. after a family slid off of the road and crashed into the pond.

On New Year’s Eve, first responders were called to the scene after the vehicle became submerged in the pond with a mother and three children inside.

Brooke Kleven, 31, was driving eastbound on University Dr. when officials reported Kleven failed to negotiate a curve and slid off the road.

Kleven’s three children, James, 4, Natalie, 2, and three month old infant, Hendrix were in the car at the time of the crash.

Members of the community said this is not the first incident and they want safety measures to prevent it from happening again.

“I just hope that it happens to nobody again,” said Debra Derickson, a witness at the scene.

A tribute with flowers and candles started around the retention pond as members of the community stopped to pay their respects.

Derickson witnessed the scene and said she believed Kleven attempted to let the children out of the vehicle and remembered seeing the three month old infant out of the car seat.

“It went down under water fast. She tried to open up the door, but it filled up faster,” said Derickson.

Rescue crews rushed to pull the vehicle from the pond.

“And they dragged the car seat up to the shore here...without the baby,” said Derickson.

Brooke and Hendrix remain in critical condition. Natalie , 2, and James, 4, were transported to Memorial Hospital from the scene where they later passed away.

Neighbors said the incident should have never happened and safety measures need to be taken.

“There should be something, a fence, something around this pond because it’s very deep,” said Derickson. “Very, very deep.”

“Fill it in or put some concrete barricades,” said Cle Rector, a resident of Granger.

Rector said the situation could have been prevented, starting with the architect who designed the area.

“You know three kids and a family destroyed because somebody couldn’t foresee that this was a dangerous situation, just asking for trouble,” said Rector.

Public Safety Communications Consortium released the following statement:

“We are making this statement on behalf of St. Joseph County and its employees, and particularly those in the 911 dispatch center.

First, we extend our deepest sympathy to the entire family; we cannot imagine at all the extent of this loss.  We are praying for a full recovery for the survivors.

Secondly, as there have been several inquiries regarding the events leading to this tragedy, we wish to provide an accurate account of events with the understanding that we will be providing details as we are able to. We are analyzing all the information available to us currently.

There is an open investigation into this matter being conducted by the FACT unit.  We are cooperating fully with that investigation.  As stated, we will provide additional details as we are able to.

We are conducting our own investigation to determine if we can respond quicker and more accurately; we will review procedures to make sure we are as helpful as we can be during emergency calls.  Our review will also include analysis of whether any disciplinary action is in order under these circumstances. 

Finally, we want to express how sorry we are to the family.  We all wish this tragedy could have been avoided. “

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