Authorities in Arkansas have released audio of a 911 call between an operator and a panicking woman who was moments away from dying in a flash flood.
In the recordings, the dispatcher could be heard at times chastising the caller for getting her vehicle stuck in the fast-rising waters, and even, at another point, the operator can be heard telling her to “shut up.”
Debbie Stevens, 47, of Fort Smith, had gotten trapped by floodwaters inside of an apartment complex parking lot and frantically called 911 for help.
On Thursday, authorities released the audio recordings of her conversation with the emergency operator, Donna Reneau.
Police officials confirmed that they have launched an investigation into Reneau’s actions to see if proper procedures were followed.
According to CBS News, Reneau had turned in her two week’s notice and was on her very last shift when Stevens called in last Saturday. The call between the two women lasted for 22 minutes before the phone cut out around 5 a.m., cops said.
At one point in the call, amidst Stevens’ panic, Reneau tells her “You’re not going to die. I don’t know why you’re freaking out. It’s OK. I know the water level is high,“ the operator said. “I’m scared. I’m sorry,” Stevens says apologetically.
“I understand that,” Reneau replies, “but you freaking out, doing nothing but losing your oxygen up in there so calm down.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
At another point, Reneau rudely chastises Stevens for getting herself caught in the flash flood in the first place telling the dying woman, “This will teach you next time don’t drive in the water.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker believes that even though the incident is being investigated, Reneau would’ve likely been able to keep her job.
“I don’t think the dispatcher realized or understood the severity of the situation,” he said.
Baker continues, “I understand that listening to a person going through the panic that Ms. Stevens was in those final moments of her life, we would all hope that we would get a little bit better response than perhaps she was given,” he explained in a statement. “I don’t want us interacting with anyone in that way, whether it’s a life and death situation or not.”
Baker contends that no matter how outrageous Reneau’s demeanor on the call sounded, “She did nothing criminally wrong,” he said. “I’m not even going to go so far as saying she violated policy.”