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Exclusive: Coral Springs 911 Call Takers Suspended After Deadly Wrong Way Crash

CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) -- Two emergency call takers for the Coral Springs Police Department were suspended for 8 hours without pay last week.

The reason -- failing to properly input information into the computer dispatch system about initial reports of a wrong way driver on the Sawgrass Expressway last November which led to a delay in responding to the emergency, police say.

"What they should have done -- what would have been preferred -- is that they put the call in to the (Computer Aided Dispatch) system as a call for service immediately instead of verbalizing it across the room," Lt. Bradley McKeone told CBS 4's Carey Codd.

Lt. McKeone said it took three minutes and 33 seconds from the time the first call about the suspected wrong way driver -- Kayla Mendoza -- came in until the time Coral Springs officers were dispatched to the Sawgrass Expressway. Given a typical police response time of 45 seconds, police said the overall delay was around 2 minutes and 48 seconds.

Click here to watch Carey Codd's report. 

"That would have left us a very short window to get up on the Sawgrass, get a unit to respond and prevent the crash," Lt. McKeone said. "Although there was a delay, it most likely would not have changed the outcome."

The outcome left Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante dead and Kayla Mendoza accused of driving drunk and the wrong way before slamming into the car the women were in.

Marisa's father -- Gary Catronio -- considers any time lost on that Sunday morning in November to be precious time.

"We say what if and we're talking what if a second, two seconds, that's all we say is what if," he said. "If one thing was changed at a place that night, our 'what if' might have been answered."

Catronio believes those extra seconds could have altered the outcome. He wonders if that extra time might have allowed an officer to drive west with lights and sirens on, warning drivers to get off the road as the wrong way driver sped towards them.

"If the accident didn't already occur, then it could have been a different outcome," Catronio said.

Police said the call takers also erred by asking the initial 911 callers to hang up and contact the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).

CALLER: "I'm on the Sawgrass and there's a guy driving on the other side of the road."
911 DISPATCHER: "Ok. Let me give you the number for Florida Highway Patrol."

Lt. McKeone said it would have been better if the call takers had transferred those callers to FHP, in addition to entering their information directly into the computer system.

"As the call comes in it's a reckless driver call. The call takers have to determine are we going to route that call to FHP or are we gonna send units and respond to it," he explained. "We had a policy in place that left some of the discretion maybe up to the call taker and now what the Deputy Chief of Communications has decided is that we're going to send units (to the Sawgrass Expressway) and respond as we need to."

Gary Catronio simply wishes the police had been able to do more.

"They say it on the side of the cars, protect and serve," he said, through tears. "Why couldn't you protect and serve my daughter? That's all I ask. Please don't let this happen again."

Lt. McKeone said police are working to make sure this doesn't happen again. He said police have always responded to accidents with injuries on the Sawgrass Expressway but now plan to respond to most -- if not all -- emergency calls on the highway. Lt. McKeone also said that Coral Springs Police officials have had conversations with FHP about how Coral Springs officers will respond to emergencies on the expressway.


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