Dispatch investigated for minivan tragedy response

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- An internal investigation has been opened to look into the procedures and training protocol of the Saint Joseph County Dispatch Center.

ABC57 is still following the New Years Eve tragedy that killed four-year-old James and his sister, two-year-old Natalie Kleven and left mother, Brook, and her 3-month-old son in critical condition.

Now the question is did the 9-1-1 confusion cost precious minutes--and possibly lives.

Looking into the scanner recordings from that afternoon, you can hear that the first call about a black Toyota minivan sinking into a retention pond on East University Drive in Mishawaka, came into the Saint Joseph County Dispatch Center at 2:46 p.m.

Sound from the Saint Joseph County Police and Fire scanner, "Fir and University Drive at the City Center see if a vehicle has gone into the pond Fir and East University Drive at the City Center.”

The Clay Fire Department was dispatched first, even though the crash was in Mishawaka on East University Drive--and the original address was incorrect--with crews being sent to Fir road---then to Costco instead of the retention pond down the street at University Drive Court.

“We are trying to pin point a location. I’ve got Clay in route as it came up earlier it’s gonna be I believe a retention pond by Temper Grill. University Drive Court and University Drive.”

“Clay units responding you can disregard it’s going to be a Mishawaka call. Clay units you can disregard the Fir and University it will be a Mishawaka call.”

The first firefighters did arrive on scene in about 2 minutes

And firefighters were in the water about 7 minutes after the original call.

But there was still confusion about who was supposed to be there.

“51-54 we are already in route and can continue if you want.”

“Were at Fir and 23 I don’t know if were closer than that medic. If so we can continue unless they want us to disregard.”

“…dispatch battalion 4 we will just keep both the units coming for now.”

And 10 minutes into the drama---, crew's still weren't sure where to go.

“Chief what’s the exact location of where you guys are at?”

“Just shoot for Ruth’s Chris you will be fine. We’re right in front of Ruth’s Chris.”

It was unclear who was supposed to be blocking off East University Drive --- and with one dive team in the water, it took 15 minutes for a second boat to come help only rescue team on site.


"Go rescue”

"We currently have a diver in the water. (muffled) (something away from us?” “we have one in the water now. We have one in a cold water suit on top of the car. However it is completely submerged.”

“Clear. We’re pulling up on scene. We will be getting ready to go in.”

And it was not until 22 minutes after the original call at 3:08 pm that 9 of the South Bend Fire Departments engines, rescue and dive teams were called out to help.

"Just confirming Mishawaka is requesting our boat as well as myself?”


“South Bend Rescue 1. 625 East University Drive. Sinking vehicle. Entrapment.

In the end---two children trapped in the submerged vehicle died---their mother and younger brother remain in critical condition.

Right now St. Joseph County is doing an investigation to determine if the confusion and delays affected the outcome--and one dispatcher who took the first call---is off the job.

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