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Police: Dispatcher key in saving teen driver hurt in Vermilion crash

  • Rt-2-accident-jpg

    Firefighters work to free a 17-year-old female driver from the wreckage of a Chevrolet Lumina. The driver lost control on Route 2 West at the Baumhart Road ramp.

    BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

  • rt-2-accident-2-jpg

    Firefighters work to free a 17-year-old female driver from the wreckage of a Chevrolet Lumina. The driver lost control on Route 2 West at the Baumhart Road ramp.

    BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

  • rt-2-accident-3-jpg

    a 17-year-old driver was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland after she lost control on her car on Route 2 West near Baumhart Road Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018

    BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

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Kate Kopriva thought something was odd about the voice of the young female driver who called 911 Tuesday to report that she had run her car off the road on state Route 2 westbound at the Baumhart Road ramp in Brownhlem Township.

“She was pretty calm,” the 14-year veteran of the Vermilion Police Department said, “but I could tell something wasn’t right.”

Kopriva kept asking questions that she said her dispatcher’s training has taught her to help “see the accident through the phone.

“I think she said something that made me think she was out of the car,” Kopriva said. “I asked her if she was hurt and her voice started to change. She said she thought her legs were broken.

“I asked her if the doors were smashed in and she said yes.

“She said she was starting to shake a little bit. That’s when I knew I had to get extrication.”

Kopriva kept the driver talking — who police have not identified except to say she is a 17-year-old North Ridgeville girl — until help arrived while coordinating the effort that included 25 law enforcement and medical first responders: Firefighters from the Vermilion and Amherst heavy rescue teams worked for 90 minutes to cut away the roof, doors and seats of the midsize sedan she was driving. Vermilion Police officers and troopers from two Ohio Highway Patrol units closed the highway to traffic so paramedics from LifeCare Ambulance and a medical team from Metro Life Flight could stabilize her injuries and fly her to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

“It escalated quickly while I stayed on the phone, but nowhere as quickly as I would imagine if I were in that situation,” Kopriva said. “In that condition, I can’t imagine being that calm.”

Vermilion Police Sgt. Gordon Adams said Kopriva “did a phenomenal thing” in working with the young driver and getting enough information to get the help quickly to a victim that could likely have been in shock. He said the girl’s family members were contacted and were at the scene of the accident when the young woman, still conscious, was transported for treatment.

Adams said they don’t yet know how the driver lost control of the Chevrolet Lumina she was driving westbound on Route 2 and struck a tree at the bottom of the Baumhart Road ramp.

“She hit it so hard she went airborne,” Adams said. “The roads were very wet.”

No charges have been filed in the one-car crash, which remains under investigation.

Contact Kymberli Hagelberg at (440) 506-8800 or email her at khagelberg@chroniclet.com.
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