WASHINGTON – A 911 dispatcher twice told an emotional 13-year-old girl to “stop whining” as her father lay dying after a hit-and-run on a Maryland highway, according to a recording of the call obtained Thursday.
The dispatcher has been reassigned to a position away from the public pending an investigation, said Capt. Russ Davies, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
The dispatcher, whose name Davies declined to release, could return to answering 911 calls but could also face termination, depending on the investigation, which will including looking at any past problems, he said.
The 911 call came in Sunday after a car hit Rick Warrick, 38, of Washington, D.C., and his fiancee as they changed a tire on a highway about halfway between Washington and Baltimore. The driver of the car that hit the couple fled. No arrests have been made, and police say they have no description of the car.
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Warrick was killed. His fiancee, Julia Pearce, 28, was seriously injured but was in fair condition at Baltimore’s Shock Trauma Center on Thursday.
Warrick’s 13-year-old daughter was in the back seat with her younger brother, and called 911.
During the five-minute call, the dispatcher asks the teen for more details about her location and about what happened. The teen answers many of his questions but struggles at times to remain calm.
At one point, the dispatcher interrupts her.
“OK, let’s stop whining. Let’s stop whining, it’s hard to understand you,” he says.
The dispatcher sounds frustrated when the girl asks him to send help quickly. At one point he asks if there’s someone else he can talk to.
The dispatcher also questions the girl repeatedly about why her father is lying on top of his fiancee, to which she tearfully responds that it’s just how he landed. She tells him that her father was breathing but not conscious.
The dispatcher doesn’t ask the girl how old she is and calls her “ma'am.”
Davies told The Associated Press that the dispatcher should have handled the call differently. Instead of telling her to “stop whining,” he said the dispatcher could have asked the girl to try to calm down and reassured her that help was on the way.
“911 dispatchers are trained to take control when they have a hysterical caller to focus them, but how (the dispatcher) proceeded to do that doesn’t meet our expectations of how that would occur, and we’re going to presume the public feels the same way,” Davies said. “That’s not how they expect to be treated when calling 911 in an emergency like that.”