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Drowning woman gets no comfort from dispatcher.

Byline: The Washington Post

Time was running out for Debra Stevens. But the 911 dispatcher didn't seem concerned.

"Somebody save me!" Stevens screamed as the water level crept up inside her car, which was stranded in floodwater.

"I don't know why you're freaking out," the dispatcher, Donna Reneau, responded.

"I'm going to die," Stevens cried later.

"Yeah, I know," Reneau said.

Stevens did die, but only after the dispatcher told the Fort Smith, Arkansas, woman to "shut up," chastised her for worrying that the phone call would cut off and berated her for driving into water water the frantic flood victim swore she had not seen.

"Well, this will teach you," Reneau can be heard saying in audio of the call released this week by Fort Smith police.

The recording has intensified outrage over the operator's response that authorities admitted "sounds calloused and uncaring" even as they insist "sincere efforts were being made" to save 47-year-old Stevens from drowning. Police have launched an internal investigation but said that Reneau who submitted her resignation earlier in August and was on her last shift when Stevens' call came in, according to the Southwest Times Record will probably not face formal repercussions for the way she treated Stevens in the woman's last minutes alive.

"I can't breathe," Stevens says over and over, as her voice becomes increasingly garbled and high-pitched toward the end of her call.

"She is legit freaking out," Reneau tells other responders after about 20 seconds of the screams.

Stevens' SUV was swept off the road and into trees by flash flooding last Saturday as she delivered papers for the Times Record, police said. She used her cellphone to call a family member first, then dialed 911 from her vehicle at 4:38 a.m., as the water rose.

Stevens was on the phone with Reneau for approximately 22 minutes as the water level climbed from Stevens' feet to her head.

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Title Annotation:Nation_
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Sep 1, 2019
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