After Death, 911 Dispatcher Faces Rare Charges

No ambulance was sent, after operator wanted assurance the patient would agree to go
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2022 2:43 PM CDT
Updated Jul 10, 2022 4:40 PM CDT
After Death, 911 Dispatcher Faces Rare Charges
Kelly Titchenell sits on her porch Thursday in Mather, Pa., holding a photo of her mother, Diania Kronk, as well as her ashes.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A 911 dispatcher was going to send an ambulance, he told the Pennsylvania woman on the phone whose mother couldn't walk or speak and was turning yellow. But he had questions first, according to a recording. "We really need to make sure she's willing to go," he said. Kelly Titchenell, who was driving to her mother's rural home, answered, "She will be, 'cause I'm on my way there, so she’s going, or she's going to die." The dispatcher repeated the question, with Tichenell finally saying, "OK, well, can we just try?" He told her to call back when she arrived and made sure her mother would agree to go to the hospital. No ambulance arrived. The dispatcher, Leon Price, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, WTAE reports.

An investigation of the July 2020 call found that the dispatcher's actions violated protocol. "It is alleged Ms. Kronk's death is a direct result of 911's violation of those policies and procedures," the Greene County district attorney's office said in a statement. Price is also charged with recklessly endangering another person, official oppression, and obstruction, the office said. District Attorney Dave Russo said Kronk was denied medical services although three ambulances were available at the time. "I believe she would be alive today if they would have sent an ambulance," her daughter said, per the AP.

Kronk, 54, who had been drinking, died of internal bleeding the next day. Titchenell has filed a federal lawsuit against Price, the county, and two 911 supervisors, charging "callous refusal of public emergency medical services." Criminal charges against dispatchers are rare, said the National Emergency Number Association's general counsel. A 911 operator in Detroit was fired in 2008 and give a year's probation after hanging up on a 5-year-old who called to report his mother had collapsed, John Kelly said. (More 911 call stories.)

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