Dec 21, 2009 11:20 PM by News First 5

3 State Patrol employees on paid leave during investigation

Three employees with the Colorado State Patrol are on paid administrative leave during an internal investigation.  Today the State Patrol said they believe at least one dispatcher was distracted when someone called to report an accident last week. 

The crash happened early Thursday morning on I-25 near mile marker 125 in Fountain.  A car traveling southbound hit a deer and stalled.  The driver then called 9-1-1.  What happened next is the subject of the investigation at the State Patrol's dispatch center in Pueblo.

"The state patrol has learned of a delay within the Pueblo regional communication center within the time the first crash was reported and the time the troopers actually received notification," said Col. James Wolfinbarger, Chief of the Patrol.

The nine minute delay was possibly due to a distraction at the office, he said. "Initial investigation has shown that one of the communications officers was watching a Christmas movie," he said.

State Patrol doesn't know if the delay cost 20-year-old Heather Clinton her life.  About 20 minutes after the first accident, Clinton swerved to miss the car, lost control and crashed into the median.  She died and her brother E.J. was seriously injured. "The indescribable sympathy goes out to the family for their great loss," said Wolfinbarger.

The State Patrol says they've made some changes to the Pueblo dispatch center and are looking at all centers across the state to prevent something like this from ever happening again.



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