St. Joseph County paying $5 million to settle pond drownings lawsuit alleging negligence
Christopher and Brooke Kleven’s federal negligence lawsuit, following the drowning deaths of their two young children, focused largely on how the county’s 911 center handled Brooke’s frantic call on Dec. 31, 2019.
That’s the morning her minivan slid on an icy University Drive, near Red Roof Inn, into the pond.
The couple alleged the county had failed to properly train 911 dispatchers.
The 911 center’s own report on the incident found that two dispatchers, who have since quit, made mistakes. The dispatcher who took her call spent too much time trying to learn her location instead of telling her to open windows and free the children from their seat belts and car seats.
The 911 center’s report concluded that it ultimately took emergency responders 14 minutes from the time her call was received to pull the family from the water, The South Bend Tribune has reported.
Finally, the report found that another dispatcher mistakenly coded the incident as an “accident” rather than a “vehicle in water,” delaying the dive team’s response.
St. Joseph County will pay $5 million to settle the lawsuit. About $4 million will go to the family, who lost 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Natalie. Their infant son Hendrik, who was then three months old, survived.
$1 million will go to the family’s attorney, John Molloy.