America is far better than the way one woman was apparently treated in the final moments of her life.
A family and a community are crushed and trying to cope with the aftermath of a tragedy.
Police released “disturbing audio” of a woman in Arkansas who pleaded for help in the final moments of her life as she sat drowning in her car, struggling to survive and breathe in the final moments — “only to be met with mockery and disdain by the dispatcher,” as Fox News and other outlets reported.
Debbie Stevens was just 47.
She was working her regular paper route in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 24, according to reports, when she apparently drove into an area that was suddenly swept up by a flash flood.
That’s when she dialed 911.
“Please help me. I don’t want to die!” Stevens begged on the phone call that lasted a total of 22 minutes. “I can’t swim! I’m scared! I’m going to drown!”
She also said into the phone, “I have an emergency — a severe emergency. I can’t get out, and I’m scared to death, ma’am. Can you please help me?” as CNN noted.
The dispatcher, a woman named Donna Reneau, was working her last shift that day after giving notice two weeks earlier that she was leaving her job, according to the Fort Smith Police Department.
This dispatcher replied “flippantly” to the panicked woman on the phone — telling her that authorities would get there when they got there and that she wasn’t going to die.
Fort Smith police in Arkansas are investigating the death of 47-year-old Debra Stevens, who accidentally drove into torrential floodwaters on Saturday morning.https://t.co/DUDRfS9HME
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) August 30, 2019
Debra Stevens was working her normal newspaper delivery route in Fort Smith, Arkansas, when rising flood waters began to overtake her SUV. https://t.co/HgH5mKxAQf
— KTLA (@KTLA) August 31, 2019
But Stevens said water was pouring into her car — to the point where it would soon ruin her new phone, as CNN reported.
“Do you really care about your brand new phone?” the dispatcher replied, according to the audio of the call. “You’re over there crying for your life. Who cares about your phone?”
The dispatcher even told her to “shut up,” the audio revealed.
Stevens wept and pleaded for help and for prayer — but instead, the dispatcher replied at one point, “Well, 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.”
It took more than an hour to reach Stevens’ vehicle — and by the time police and firefighters were able to secure the car, Stevens had drowned.
Authorities were on the scene 12 minutes after the victim dialed 911, some reports said.
“But because of the floodwaters,” Fox News noted, “it took more than an hour to reach Stevens’ vehicle — and by the time police and firefighters were able to secure the car, Stevens had drowned.”
In a statement, Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker described the dispatcher’s response as “calloused and uncaring at times.”
But he also said to KHBS that the dispatcher did nothing “criminally wrong” and that she did not “violate policy.”
Baker also said in the same statement, “I am heartbroken for this tragic loss of life and my prayers are with Debra’s family and friends.”
“All of our first responders who attempted to save Mrs. Stevens are distraught over the outcome. For every one of us, saving lives is at the very core of who we are and why we do what we do. When we are unsuccessful, it hurts.”
The police department indicated it released the audio of the women’s phone call “with great reluctance” after repeated requests from the media to do so.
As a result of the death of Debra Stevens, the Fort Smith Police Department is investigating its internal policies over the incident, the Southwest Times Record reported.
The same publication also noted that Stevens was involved in preschool ministry at East Side Baptist Church.
Share your thoughts on this story.