May 18, 2010 7:15 PM
The Colorado State Patrol has taken administrative action against four employees involved in an episode last December that lead to the death of a motorist on Interstate 25 between Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
In the early morning hours of December 17, 2009, a call came in about a crash that was blocking traffic. A Mazda had struck a deer and was disabled in the right lane of traffic. A passenger in the Mazda contacted the State Patrol Dispatch Center at 1:38 a.m. to report the accident and advise that the Mazda was in the lane of travel with no lights or flashers. At 1:50 a.m., approximately 13 minutes later, a Ford Explorer driven by Heather Clinton, 20 of San Manuel, Arizona, lost control while approaching the Mazda. The Ford rolled into the center median. Clinton and a passenger, Earl "E.J." Clinton, 22 also of San Manuel, were ejected during the rollover. The occupants of the Ford were sisters.
Ms. Clinton sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Clinton sustained serious injuries and was transported to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Earlier reports indicated one person at the Pueblo Dispatch Center was watching a Christmas video on a laptop computer and did not process the call for nine minutes. Several people were placed on leave while an investigation was completed. Tuesday afternoon the State Patrol revealed that administrative action had been taken against four employees. The specific details were not released.
The State Patrol has changed policies to keep employees in communication centers from being distracted.
"As holders of the public trust, it is incumbent upon us to continually evaluate and review our policies and practices," said Sergeant John Hahn, spokesperson for the Colorado State Patrol. "Never more important is that charge than in the wake of a tragedy such as this to take steps to mitigate the likelihood of something like this from ever happening again."
The El Paso County District Attorney's Office investigated as well and found no crime had been committed.