A Pennsylvania 911 operator faces a rare charge of involuntary manslaughter for failing to send an ambulance to the rural home of a woman who died of internal bleeding a day later, despite a plea from the woman’s daughter that without medical help “she’s going to die.”
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 dispatch help without getting more assurance that Kronk would actually go to the hospital.
“It has to be very clear throughout the entire state, that when you call it’s not going to be conditioned on somebody on the other end of the phone saying there’s going to be a service provided or not,” said Lawrence E. Bolind Jr., who represents Titchenell in a federal lawsuit filed last month. “What we’re trying to do here is make this never happen to somebody else.”
“She’s going to go, she’s going to go,” Titchenell said. “Cause if not, she’s going to die, there’s nothing else.” She said that Kronk was not thinking clearly and that she was her mother’s closest relation. When Price again asked if Kronk would in fact go, Titchenell replied: “OK, well, can we just try?”
The prosecutor, Greene County District Attorney Dave Russo, said he is also investigating whether there was any policy or training under which the county’s 911 dispatchers were allowed to refuse services to callers.
John Kelly, a Naperville, Illinois, lawyer who is general counsel to the National Emergency Number Association, said criminal charges against dispatchers for failing to send help are very rare but have happened.
In a case Kelly teaches in dispatcher training, a 911 operator in Detroit received a year of probation in 2008 and lost her job after, authorities said, she did not take seriously a boy’s calls to report his mother had collapsed. The 5-year-old boy testified that the dispatcher accused him of playing games and hung up on him, while the dispatcher testified that she could not hear the child.
Titchenell, on behalf of her mother’s estate, sued Price and Greene County in Pittsburgh federal court last month, along with two 911 supervisors. The lawsuit accuses Price of “callous refusal of public emergency medical services.”
Titchenell told Price that her mother had been drinking heavily for some weeks before she died, and that Titchenell had noticed she was losing weight and was “turning yellow.” She said the autopsy concluded Kronk, who worked in home health care, died of internal bleeding.