Victim’s executor to sue Luzerne County 911 over Conyngham Township fire death

By Jennifer Learn-Andes jandes@civitasmedia.com

July 30, 2014

The estate of a Conyngham Township woman who died in a May fire has filed notice of plans to sue Luzerne County 911.

County 911 logs show emergency crews were incorrectly dispatched to Conyngham borough about 14 miles away from the fire scene, and it took five minutes for 911 to issue a dispatch to the correct location in the township, which is near Shickshinny.

A 911 dispatcher was terminated over the May 15 incident, and another employee was suspended.

The death of 52-year-old Michelle Dzoch in the blaze has sparked heated debate over the cause of the delay.

A county investigation concluded human error was the primary cause, while a union investigation presented to county council last week largely blamed staffing shortages, insufficient training and staff turnover.

County officials also say the initial caller reporting the blaze identified the address as Main Street in Conyngham borough. The borough and township both have Main Streets with similar address numbers.

The document putting 911 on notice of the plans to sue was filed by attorney Jamie Anzalone on behalf of Katrina Hartman, administrator of Dzoch’s estate.

Chief county solicitor C. David Pedri did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

County Manager Robert Lawton said the county law office will review any filings and respond accordingly.

Police said the fire in the township’s Mocanaqua section was caused by children playing with a lighter inside the home. County sources said Dzoch went back inside the home after reporting the blaze.