Thursday, April 17, 2014
State and county officials say a miscommunication among dispatchers delayed the Maine State Police response when a child was struck and killed by his father's snowplow truck in Greene on Wednesday.
The home of Kevin Capponi and family where he accidentally backed over his son while plowing, causing his 6-year-old son Nathan's death on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in Greene, Maine.
Officials said the delay did not have any impact on the medical response.
Nathan Capponi, 6, was playing on his scooter in the driveway when he was struck by a plow truck driven by his father, Kevin Capponi, 36, who was cleaning up after the previous day's snowstorm.
The state Medical Examiner's Office said Friday the boy died of accidental blunt force trauma to the head.
An Androscoggin County dispatcher took the initial call at 6:45 a.m. and summoned an ambulance and the local fire department.
The ambulance covered the distance from Lewiston to the far side of Greene in 13 minutes, said Capt. Raymond Lafrance, director of public safety for the Androscoggin Sheriff's Office.
The dispatcher quickly notified the state's regional communications center in Gray, which dispatches state police troopers.
A dispatcher there, who was new to the job, asked if law enforcement help was needed, according to Lt. Walter Grzyb, head of State Police Troop B.
"The dispatcher in Androscoggin kind of paused, said 'Well, they're not asking for it at this time,'" Grzyb said.
"For whatever reason, they didn't understand a police response was probably required," he said. "We all know how serious it is now. The initial calls didn't say 'The child's going to die,' just that a child has been injured in his driveway by a father plowing."
Grzyb said his troopers did not learn about the fatal accident until notified by the state medical examiner about 9 a.m.
"He was kind of horrified that he didn't know about this incident," Grzyb said of the trooper. "In this case, it didn't have any impact on the investigation, the outcome, didn't impact us in terms of what we were doing in terms of scene evaluation or examination."
Lafrance said county dispatchers made the transfer to the state communications center as they normally would.
"The important people got there really quick. EMS is the number one priority -- life and safety. The fire department and the ambulance were dispatched in less than a minute and were en route," Lafrance said.
"I think there was a miscommunication on their end," he said. "They (county dispatch) told (state dispatch) that the father had backed up and struck the child and that they were giving them a heads-up."
A second call to state dispatch in Gray said that an ambulance had arrived and CPR had been started, indicating the severity of the incident, but that call went to a different dispatcher.
Clifford Wells, director of the state's Emergency Services Communications Bureau, said the agency will study the incident to determine whether any policy or training issues need to be addressed.
Wells said different towns have different policies on when to dispatch police to an accident.
He also said that because state police and the sheriff's office cover Greene on alternating months, the new dispatcher might have believed the county had sent one of its units, he said.
The new dispatcher has been on the staff for a few months.
Grzyb said the mixup was unrelated to the patrol arrangement in Greene, which calls for state police to patrol that town and two others every other month, with the sheriff's office providing coverage in the alternating months.
Troopers do not typically monitor radio traffic between the county communications center and fire and rescue departments, Grzyb said.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: