A 911 dispatcher in Arkansas scolded a woman stranded in floodwaters shortly before the woman drowned. The incident has led police in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to apologize and review their policies for emergency responses during storms, NBC News reports.
Debra Stevens, 47, was delivering newspapers at about 4:38 a.m. on Aug. 24 when her car was swept away by floodwaters and got stuck in a copse of trees off the roadway amid rising waters, Fort Smith police said. Her call to 911 was answered by then-dispatcher Donna Reneau, who was working her last shift as a 911 operator after she had presented her resignation earlier this month, NBC affiliate KARK reported.
During the call, Stevens told Reneau she was unable to get out of her car because she did not know how to swim. As waters continued to rise up past Stevens’ chest and cover her vehicle, she panicked and repeatedly said, "I'm going to die."
U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
Reneau told her, “You’re not going to die" and "I don’t know why you’re freaking out.” At one point the dispatcher said to Stevens, "This will teach you next time don’t drive in the water...I don't see how you didn't see it, you had to go right over it, so?"
By the time first responders reached Stevens and removed her from her car, at about 6 a.m. — about an hour and a half after she called 911 — she had drowned.