'Uncaring' 911 dispatcher lectures drowning woman moments before she died

'Uncaring' 911 dispatcher lectures drowning woman moments before she died”

Debra Stevens, 47, was delivering newspapers early in the morning on August 23, when her SUV became swept away by swift waters due to flash flooding. At first, Stevens called a family member, but she called 911 once she realized she could not get out of her vehicle.

A terrified Stevens told the dispatcher over and over that she was going to die in the rapidly rising water.

"This will teach you next time don't drive in the water", Reneau coldly tells her.

Stevens complains that there's no one helping her, a statement to which Reneau responds, "Am I not on the phone with you trying to get you some help?" Stevens had drowned by the time first responders reached her, NWAhomepage reports.

"I am heartbroken for this tragic loss of life and my prayers are with Debra's family and friends", Police Chief Danny Baker said in a statement.

"I understand that you're scared, but there's nothing I can do sitting in a chair".

The dispatcher's response 'sounds calloused and uncaring at times, ' police said.


According to a statement from the Fort Smith Police Department, the dispatcher, identified as Donna Reneau by local media, was working her last shift as a 911 dispatcher and dispatch trainer when she answered the call early Saturday morning.

"You're not going to die". "You had to go right over it, so ..."

Later in the call Stevens reported the water was up to her neck, with Reneau telling her to "shut up".

"I completely understand the disgust and the concern that we all have. It's OK. I know the water level is high", the operator said.

"I'm scared. I've never had anything like this happen to me before", she can be heard saying, just minutes before her phone gets disconnected.

Crying, Stevens says her "brand-new phone" is about to die. But the dispatcher sounded terse at other points, even telling Stevens to "shut up" so she could speak with first responders. When Stevens starts screaming that she "can't breathe", Reneau told her, "Miss Debbie, you are breathing just fine, because you are screaming at me". First responders were unable to revive her after removing her from the vehicle. "I'm sorry, or I wouldn't have". The dispatcher notified police and firefighters of the emergency and stayed on the phone with Stevens, according to the news release.

Stevens profusely apologizes, saying, "I'm sorry ma'am, I didn't see it".

The two talked for more than 10 minutes before officers arrived on scene - and another 10 minutes after that while rescue teams worked to reach Stevens.

Reneau reveals that there is a first responder near the scene, but that he can not locate her in the flood waters.

"These people are all standing out here watching me", Stevens said.

Despite the dispatcher's apparently harsh tone in the call, police said in the press release that "sincere efforts were being made to locate and save Mrs. Stevens".

"The incident will certainly lead to us looking at policies within our existing Communications Unit but we have not completed a review at this time to make specific determinations", Mitchell said.

"OK, listen to me, I know", the dispatcher said. We want to save lives. All of our first responders who attempted to save Mrs. Stevens are distraught over the outcome.

Police released disturbing audio of an Arkansas woman who called for help in the final moments of her life, drowning in her auto, only to be met with mockery and disdain by the dispatcher. That's what we're about, and when we're not successful in doing that, it hurts - it hurts to the core.

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