Special to the Vindicator
Lonnie Kolat sits with Diesel, his male laborador retriever, who is recovering at the Kolat home from hypothermia. Diesel and Kolat’s female laborador retriever, Savannah, both 5 years old, fell into an opening in a neighbor’s pond Jan. 25, and Savannah drowned. At the request of the Brookfield Township police and fire chiefs, the director of the Trumbull County 911 dispatch center is conducting an investigation into why dispatchers didn’t ask the Brookfield Fire Department to respond to the pond after a caller alerted dispatchers to the problem.
By Ed Runyan
Ernie Cook, Trumbull County 911 director, is investigating a complaint filed by Brookfield Township’s police and fire chiefs over the failure of two 911 dispatchers to send the Brookfield Fire Department to a call involving two dogs.
The dogs had fallen into the icy waters of a backyard pond. One of the 5-year-old yellow Labrador retrievers eventually slipped under the water and drowned. The 911 caller saved the other dog on his own by laying a ladder onto the ice and pulling the dog to safety.
The surviving dog, Diesel, is being treated for hypothermia.
The owner of the dogs, Lonnie Kolat of 833 Warner Road, said he was driving home from work at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 25, when his neighbor, Wayne Yurak, discovered Kolat’s dogs in Yurak’s pond and called 911. The two men live a couple of houses from each other.
Yurak told the 911 dispatcher there were two dogs trapped in the middle of his pond.
“I run an aerator all winter long on my pond, so there’s an open spot out there of clear water, and there’s no ice in it,” Yurak said. The dispatcher promised to “see what we can have somebody do.”
According to 911 records, the dispatcher typed into the dispatching computer: “2 dogs trapped on ice, not his.”
At 3:01 p.m., the female dog, Savannah, slipped under the water, and Yurak called 911 again, this time getting a different dispatcher.
Yurak asked the dispatcher, “Is somebody coming or not, because one just drowned,” according to the complaint filed with the county 911 by Police Chief Daniel Faustino and Fire Chief Keith Barrett.
The second dispatcher responded by saying, “You said one of them is now in the water?”
Yurak repeated that one had drowned and the other one was nearly drowned from fatigue.
The second dispatcher said she was going to alert the police department and said the delay in responding was because the police department was handling a domestic-violence call.
“I don’t think I need police. I need firemen to go out and rescue these dogs off the ice,” Yurak said.
By the time the first Brookfield police officer arrived at 3:08 p.m., Yurak had already rescued the second dog. The fire department was never called.
Cook said the first dispatcher put the dog call into a “queue,” as in a waiting position until officers were through with the domestic- violence call, because the dog call was listed as “animal complaint,” which is a lower priority than domestic violence.
“What I want to know is why [the first dispatcher] didn’t get on the phone and call the fire department,” Cook said.
As for the second dispatcher, she didn’t call the fire department because she believed it was the police department’s decision whether the call should be handled by police officers or firefighters, Cook said.
There is no specific rule for who makes that decision, Cook said: Sometimes it’s made by the dispatcher, sometimes by a police officer.
Kolat said the Countryside Veterinary service in Kinsman took extraordinary measures to save Diesel’s life, and Yurak is a hero for pulling him from the pond.
But Kolat is concerned that his neighbor was placed in such a dangerous position.
“I don’t want to see the ball dropped again,” Kolat said. “I lost something great deep in my heart, but I think there might be a value of human life here, too. That’s the important thing.”