911 operator fired after dispatching error

CROWN POINT, Ind. (WLS) -- A northwest Indiana 911 dispatched was fired Thursday after her dispatching error earlier this week delayed the arrival of paramedics for 47 minutes to the Griffith home of man needing medical help.

Natalia Deluna-Avila, a nine-year veteran, was fired after being placed on unpaid administrative leave following the death of 81-year-old Kenneth Booker. She entered the number 3, instead of 8, when entering his address.

The 911 center in Crown Point is about 10 miles away from Booker's apartment building in Griffith. However, Deluna-Avila entered the wrong address sending first responders nearly a mile away. Police said that had they been given the correct address, they likely would have been at the man's home within minutes.

In 911 tapes released on Thursday, Booker is heard giving his address correctly and the dispatcher repeatedly saying that she did not understand him. Booker placed several calls while waiting for help.

Booker died Monday night.

Emergency call centers are being consolidated throughout the state of Indiana. Lake County's new $9 million center opened earlier this year and serves 15 cities and 460,000 residents. The consolidation aimed to improve services after a botched call in June may have led to the death of off-duty officer Burt Sanders, who suffered a heart attack at his Gary church. The dispatcher who took that call was later fired.

Brian Hitchcock, Lake County 911 executive director, said there are already plans to re-test all dispatchers for accuracy and competency. He added that all operators have completed customer service training.

Booker's son said he has since hired an attorney.
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