911 operator placed on leave after dispatching error

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An operator at a 911 center in northwest Indiana has been placed on unpaid administrative following a dispatching mistake. (WLS)

An operator at the 911 center in Lake County, Ind., has been placed on unpaid administrative after a man died following a dispatching mistake. It took first responders 47 minutes to reach 81-year-old Kenneth Booker.

The 911 center in Crown Point is about 10 miles away from Booker's apartment building in Griffith. But when the operator got the urgent call from a unit in the building, they sent the Griffith police to a home nearly a mile away.

By the time emergency crews got to the right place, Booker was apparently in serious trouble. Neighbor Karen Lee let police into the building.

"I'm just listening and I could hear the resident gasping for air," Lee said.

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.

It was supposed to improve service 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.

In this latest case, the center director says the problem was that the operator wrote the wrong address.

"The dispatcher had taken the information wrong and entered it into the system wrong, even though the caller made it clear what the address was," said Brian Hitchcock, Lake County 911 Emergency Dispatch Director.

Neighbors recall Booker as a nice gentleman who lived alone and was often outside on a swing on his balcony. Many are concerned about the emergency response to his call.

"I was very disheartened to hear how that call was received and I think that is a serious situation and they should look into it," said Bea Vasquez, a neighbor.

The dispatcher who took the call is a 9-year veteran. Hitchcock said the dispatcher will remain on leave at least until the investigation is complete.

Related Topics:
911 callinvestigationCrown PointGriffith
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