Probe: 911 dispatchers bungled fatal pond crash

By The Associated Press

MISHAWAKA — A 911 dispatcher speaking to a desperate driver who had veered into a frozen northern Indiana pond should have focused on advising her how to get herself and her three young children to safety instead of spending the beginning of the call trying to determine the pond's location, an investigation found.

Research shows there is only about one minute for occupants to safely get out of a vehicle once it enters water, yet the dispatcher spent over 90 seconds during Brooke Kleven's New Year's Eve call trying to verify the location of the accident, according to a report released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a second St. Joseph's County dispatcher speaking to a bystander who witnessed the crash and called 911 erred by classifying it as an “accident” rather than a “vehicle in water,” which delayed the response of a dive team to the location, the South Bend Tribune reported. It took 14 minutes from the time of Kleven's call for a diver to enter the pond in Mishawaka.

The crash occurred when Kleven missed a curve on an icy road. Two of Kleven's children, 4-year-old James Kleven and 2-year-old Natalie Kleven, drowned. Brooke Kleven and her 3-month-old daughter, Hendrix Kleven, were critically injured but survived.

The two dispatchers have resigned since the crash but likely would have been disciplined if they hadn't for failing to follow protocol in an emergency situation, Ray Schultz, the dispatch center's director, said in the report.

Schultz said it's unclear why the second dispatcher did not use the dispatch's center's software to correctly code the incident. But he also said it would be “pure speculation” to suggest that the outcome of the crash would have changed had it not been for the dispatchers' “missteps.”

“(Kleven) had gotten them all free. All of the children were out of their buckles and seat belts,” Schultz said. “She just ran out of time to get out of the vehicle.”

Brooke Kleven has been transferred to a rehabilitation facility, and her daughter Hendrix has been released from the hospital.

More on