Police

On August 24, 47-year-old Debbie Stevens had begun her usual paper route when she drove into floodwaters.

As Fox News reports, after the flash flood had swept up her vehicle, it began filling up with water. Stevens called 911 begging for help, fearing that she would drown because she couldn’t swim.

Sadly, Stevens did drown that day. Now, a recording of Stevens’ 911 call has been “reluctantly” released, and many are shocked by the dispatcher’s behavior towards Stevens.

According to Fox News, Stevens call with the dispatcher, now identified as Donna Reneau, last 22 minutes. It was reportedly Reneau’s last shift as a dispatcher for the Fort Smith Police Department.

At the start of the call, Stevens is unable to tell Reneau where she’s at, saying the water is already “all the way up my windows.” She later describes her vehicle as a dark gray SUV.

Police
Fox News

During the call, Stevens tells Reneau, “Please help me, I don’t want to die! I can’t swim! I’m scared! I’m going to drown!” Stevens added that she didn’t see the water until she came up on it.

Soon into the call, Stevens gets increasingly nervous and begins to freak out. Reneau continuously tells Stevens that she’s not going to drowned and that she needs to “calm down.”

Eventually, after Stevens asks “how long is it gonna take” until first responders reach her, Reneau explained that she didn’t “have an officer available, so it’s gonna take a minute.”

Minutes later, Stevens asks again through tears, “when are they gonna get here?” adding that her “brand new” phone is going to be ruined by the water as it gets increasingly higher. Reneau simply states, “When they get there,” before saying:

“Do you really care about your brand new phone? I mean, you’re over there crying for your life. Who cares about your phone?”

Reneau could also be heard telling the terrified woman to “shut up” and even lecturing her about driving in those types of weather conditions:

“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, so.”

(Warning: Some people may find the below recording of the 911 call disturbing.)

As Fox News reports, it took 12 minutes for first responders to find Stevens’ vehicle, but due to the floodwaters, it was nearly an hour before anyone was able to actually reach her.

It was too late, and Stevens had drowned by the time her SUV was “secured.”

A news release issued by the Fort Smith Police Department read in part:

…While the operator’s response to this extremely tense and dynamic event sounds calloused and uncaring at times, sincere efforts were being made to locate and save Mrs. Stevens.

Chief of Police Danny Baker said that Reneau’s behavior was not illegal in any way. However, he “completely understand[s] the disgust and the concern that we all have. We all hope that we would get a little better response.”

Chief Baker then added in the same press release:

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.”

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8 Replies to “Police Chief Says He Completely Understands the Shock Around ‘Calloused’ and ‘Uncaring’ 911 Call”

  • Anonymous 3 months ago

    The dispatcher was rude to this lady. She should have been more sympathetic instead of telling Debbie about learning her lesson driving in water, not to cry, etc. My heart breaks for Debbie begging for help and my heart breaks for her family.

  • Rebecca 3 months ago

    BS she didn’t give aflip about anything at that point. Should have docked her pay.

  • Lisa 3 months ago

    My heart breaks for Debbie and her family. To know that the last words she heard were from an ignorant woman like the dispatcher, I would be furious and I am. I worked as a dispatcher for a time and know how hard it can get but their is no reason for that womans behavior. I feel she doesn’t have the right to walk away free from repercussion. Debbie died and instead of trying to console her she chose to unleash herself on this poor woman. May God bless you and bring you peace, Debbie’s family, as for the other, karma will come back to haunt you. It always does!

  • peace 3 months ago

    All I can say is that CARMA IS GOING TO BE A BITCH ,

  • Robbie 3 months ago

    It should be criminal how that dispatcher treated this victim. How cruel and painfully detached she was when speaking to her. She needs to be employed as a manual laborer where she doesn’t have to speak to people. Prayers going out to the family. This was so, so disturbing.

  • Jimmy Jong 3 months ago

    That b*tch should be put in a car that’s being overcome with water to see how she would react…I dont care what anyone says, that not good pos mishandled the desperate call with a callous disregard for precious life itself and it is this community’s hope that this haunts that c#nt for the rest of her putrid, useless life…what an a$$h*le

  • Margo 3 months ago

    The 911 call was so disturbing on so many levels that I was could hardly continue to listen to it. The Dispatcher was dealing with a hysterical lady, fearing her death, and yet the Dispatcher was so far removed from the situation she had no humanity. This horror was the 911 Dispatchers last day, and that is a good thing, we don’t need people like her answering distress calls with such a lack of empathy, and compassion. I know these 911 Dispatcher’s must calm people, and must get the information they need in order to assist the callers, however, this particular Dispatcher handled the call well at times, and others times, her words,cans actions were disgraceful. In the end a woman died of drowning, and altho it was not the Dispatcher’s fault, she made that poor woman’s last minutes on Earth miserably upsetting, and futile.

  • Anonymous 3 months ago

    That dispatcher, had no empathy for human life. She was cold, and heartless. She was the devil in disguise. I felt every word, and it was heartfelt. The dispatcher, even said to shut up. She needs to have the same thing to happen. Prayers out to the family to hear here her say. She didn’t say good bye to her mother. It was so, sad, and painful.

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Police Chief Says He Completely Understands the Shock Around ‘Calloused’ and ‘Uncaring’ 911 Call

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