Dispatcher who failed to dispatch ambulance charged with death in 2020

An 911 operator in Pennsylvania is facing a rare involuntary manslaughter charge for failing to dispatch an ambulance to the rural home of a woman who died a day later of internal bleeding, despite a plea from the woman’s daughter that she “will die without medical help. ”

A Greene County detective last week filed charges against Leon “Lee” Price, 50, of Waynesburg, in the July 2020 death of Diania Kronk, 54, based on Price’s reluctance to send help without receiving more certainty that Kronk was actually going to the hospital.

“I think she would be alive today if they had sent an ambulance,” said Kronk’s daughter, Kelly Titchenell, 38.

Price, who also faces charges of reckless endangerment, regulatory repression and obstruction, repeatedly questioned Titchenell during the four-minute phone call if Kronk would agree to treatment.

Price was charged on June 29 and released on bail. He did not respond to messages left on a home number listed in his name, and officials said a defense attorney did not contact the district court.

“It must be clear statewide that a call will not be made conditional on someone on the other end of the line saying whether service is being offered or not,” said Lawrence E. Bolind Jr., who told Titchenell in a recent Federal lawsuit filed month. “What we’re trying to do here is that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

In the 911 call recording, an operator identified by police as Price responded to Titchenell’s description of her mother requiring hospital treatment by asking if she would be willing to go to the hospital about half an hour from where she lives in Sycamore.

“She’s going to be because I’m on my way there, so she’s going to go or she’s going to die,” Titchenell told Price as she drove from her home in Mather.

Price said he would send an ambulance, but then added, “We really need to make sure she’s ready to go.”

“She’ll go, she’ll go,” Titchenell said. “Because if not, she will die, there is nothing else.” She said that Kronk was not thinking straight and that she was her mother’s closest relative. When Price asked again if Kronk would actually go, Titchenell replied, “OK, well, can we just try?”

After Titchenell told Price that she was about 10 minutes from her mother’s home, Price asked if Titchenell would call 911 back once she verified that Kronk was ready to ride in an ambulance.

“I’m sorry,” Titchenell said, and Price replied, “No, I’m not sorry, ma’am. Just call me when you’re out there, okay?”

When Titchenell and her three children arrived at the house, she said, Kronk was naked on the porch, speaking incoherently. She made her mother put on a bathrobe.

“She kept saying she was fine, she’s fine,” Titchenell said. “She’s the mother, you know — she doesn’t listen to her kids.”

Titchenell said she couldn’t call from home because her mother’s landline couldn’t be located and there was no cell service. She also did not call on the way home, believing that her uncle would be checking on her soon and further contacting 911 would be pointless.

“This is unheard of for me. I mean, they send an ambulance for everything,” Titchenell said. “And here I am telling this guy that my mother is going to die. It’s her death, so to speak, and she’s not getting an ambulance.”

Her brother found the next day that their mother had died.

Prosecutor Greene County District Attorney Dave Russo said he’s also investigating whether there was any policy or training that allowed 911 County dispatchers to refuse service to callers.

“We all deserve equal protection and we all deserve access to medical care,” Russo said in an interview. “I have major concerns for the safety of the community in this regard.”

John Kelly, a Naperville, Illinois attorney who is general counsel for the National Emergency Number Association, said criminal charges against dispatchers for not sending help are very rare but have occurred.

In a case where Kelly teaches dispatcher training, a Detroit 911 operator received a year’s probation and lost her job in 2008 after authorities said she didn’t take seriously a boy’s calls to report that his mother had collapsed was. The 5-year-old boy testified that the operator accused him of gambling and hung up, while the operator stated that she could not hear the child.

Titchenell sued Price and Greene County in federal court in Pittsburgh last month on behalf of her mother’s estate, along with two 911 supervisors. The lawsuit accuses Price of “callous rejection of public emergency services.”

Marie Milie Jones, a county attorney and the 911 attendant in the federal case, said her clients plan to vigorously defend the lawsuit and do not believe they are liable for Kronk’s death. She said there were “ongoing personnel matters” regarding Price but declined to elaborate.

“It is unfortunate that this woman passed away. It’s certainly very difficult from a personal perspective,” Jones said. “I will not comment on the details of her circumstances.”

Titchenell told Price that her mother had been drinking heavily a few weeks before her death, and that Titchenell had noticed that she was losing weight and “turning yellow.” She said the autopsy revealed Kronk, who worked in home health care, died of internal bleeding.

She said she thinks of her late mother every day – how the former longtime store manager loved to cook, help people and spoil her five grandchildren, how she piled a mountain of presents under the tree every Christmas.

“She had the biggest heart,” Titchenell said. “If someone didn’t have an apartment, she took them in and gave them a bed. That was mom.”

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