Dispatcher Let Go

By: Mike Tolbert
By: Mike Tolbert

On the morning of October 20, AirHeart One was on its way to DeFuniak Springs when it radioed Walton County dispatchers that they had to turn around due to bad weather.

A recently released report by the Walton County Emergency Operations Center says dispatcher Richard Grippo took the call, but soon after stopped tracking the flight because he believed they were almost back at base and didn't expect to hear from them.

The call was then taken off a computer checklist and no one realized the chopper was missing until the next flight crew came in more than five hours later. Grippo has since been fired.

The report also states that Grippo was not properly trained and should have been monitored by his supervisor, Angelic Austin. It says she assumed he had the proper training, but didn't verify it. Right now she's on medical leave but could be fired or demoted when she returns.

This report is the latest chapter of a more than month-long investigation into why AirHeart One went down in the Choctawhatchee Bay and how to prevent it from happening again.

At this point, a new 9-1-1- coordinator and trainer has been a hired and AirHeart dispatch has become the responsibility of the South Walton Fire Department. For a dispatch center that has come under fire, this report gives some closure.

Full closure will not come until the National Transportation Safety Board releases its final report into the cause of the crash, most likely in the spring.


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