Disturbing audio has been released of a 911 operator telling a drowning woman to "shut up" before she passed away in a flash flood while delivering newspapers. According to Buzzfeed News, Debra Stevens was out doing her job for the Southwest Times Record in Arkansas when she got caught up in rapidly rising water. The 47-year-old called emergency services from inside her vehicle as it was swept away, requesting assistance and telling the operator that she was scared of dying.
Stevens came through to Donna Reneau, who was previously named "Fire Dispatcher of the Year" in 2019. Despite Reneau talking with Stevens for 22-minutes, responders didn't arrive on the scene until an hour later, by which time she had drowned. The Police Department released the audio to media outlets after receiving several requests. The recording starts when Stevens made the call at 4.38 a.m on August 24th.
Clearly terrified for her life and distraught, the endangered woman tells Reneau that she doesn't want to die. Reneau appears to have little sympathy, telling Stevens to calm down.
Later on, Reneau berates the caller after she begs for someone to save her, saying, "Am I not on the phone with you trying to get you some help? Then stop." She continues, "You're not gonna die, I don't know why you're freaking out. I know the water level is high...but you freaking out doing nothing but losing your oxygen level up in there, so calm down." When Stevens expresses worries that her new phone will die or her car will catch on fire, Reneau seemingly tells her off, saying, "Do you really care about your brand-new phone? You're over there crying for your life. How (is your car going to catch on fire) you're underwater."
Stevens apologizes to the operator once more, saying she's sorry if she is coming across as rude. Reneau responds, "Well, this will teach you; next time don't drive in the water," prompting Stevens to insist she didn't see the flood before she drove. Reneau tells her that she must have, as water simply doesn't "just appear." When the drowning woman tries to shout her location, Reneau tells her to "shut up."
Rescuers didn't arrive on the scene until 5.58 a.m when it was too late. The local community has been left outraged and sickened by the recordings, but the Fort Smith Police Department insists that they did their utmost to save Debra Stevens, regardless of Reneau's attitude. As the dispatcher had previously turned in her resignation two weeks prior, she wasn't fired. In fact, Debra Stevens' call was possibly the last emergency call Reneau would ever take. As she is no longer an employee of the department, no action will be taken.