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911 dispatcher scolds caller stranded in floodwaters shortly before she drowns

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ARKANSAS – A 911 dispatcher in Arkansas taunted a woman stranded in floodwaters shortly before the woman drowned.

The incident happened during a storm in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Police have since apologized and are now reviewing their policies for emergencies. 

Debra Stevens, 47, was out delivering newspapers around 4 am. Aug. 24. According to police, her car was swept away by floodwaters.

Her call to 911 was answered by then-dispatcher Donna Reneau.

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 covered her vehicle, she panicked and repeatedly said, "I'm going to die."

Reneau told her, "You're not going to die" and "I don't know why you're freaking out."

The dispatcher also said: "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?"

Reneau - told Stevens that first responders were also saving other people from floodwaters and that many other emergency calls she needed to attend to were coming in.

The dispatcher also said as emergency workers were trying to locate Stevens: "Ms. Debbie, you're going to need to shut up. I need to you to listen to me."

By the time first responders reached Stevens and removed her from her car two hours later, she had drowned.


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