By Tim Yovich
A communications breakdown leads to a suspension for a Newton Falls police dispatcher.
NEWTON FALLS – A city police dispatcher has been handed a two-week suspension without pay as the result of a CSX train destroying a Newton Township police car parked on the railroad tracks.
Police Chief Robert Carlson said part-time dispatcher Dawn A. Mc-Avoy, who has been with the department for about four months, will begin her suspension Sunday and return June 7.
The May 12 crash occurred when township Patrol Officer Tom Colosimo parked the cruiser on the tracks at Miller-Graber Road. Colosimo had gotten out of the cruiser to chase some copper thieves.
City police also dispatch calls for township police.
Carlson said that at 10:50 p.m. Colosimo radioed dispatch: “I’m going to be out on the tracks on Miller-Graber; advise CSX that I’ll be on the tracks; there’s some people out there.” Carlson said that Colosimo didn’t report that his cruiser was parked on the tracks at that time.
McAvoy, who was preparing to leave at the completion of her shift, didn’t notify CSX, he explained.
About a minute later, the chief said, Colosimo radioed that the people were running and he was chasing them.
McAvoy didn’t tell the dispatcher replacing her of what Colosimo was doing, Carlson pointed out.
According to the radio transmission, Colosimo asked the dispatcher who had just arrived on duty if the train had been stopped as his cruiser was on the tracks.
At 11:02 p.m., the dispatcher told Colosimo the train hadn’t been stopped. Colosimo radioed that he had told the previous dispatch that he was on the tracks. About a minute later, the locomotive crashed into the cruiser.
In his suspension letter to Mc- Avoy, Carlson said that she was ultimately responsible for contacting CSX.
“Assuming someone else would follow through with the call cannot be tolerated,” the chief wrote.
He said a call to CSX would have advised the train that an officer was on the tracks and his approximate location.
“I know the officer did not advise you of his vehicle being parked on the tracks; there was still a possibility that the officer could have been injured or killed during this incident,” Carlson wrote.
The chief admitted that he isn’t sure if the initial call would have stopped the train and prevented the accident.
Colosimo has not been disciplined for his actions nor charged by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash.
Lt. Joseph Dragovich, commander of the patrol’s Warren post in Southington, said Tuesday that Colosimo was performing legitimate police work and Colosimo did what he needed to do.
Any breakdown in communications, Dragovich said, is handled by the police departments.
Newton Township Police Chief Tommy Thompson could not be reached for comment.