More often than not, we hear about the funniest or weirdest phone calls emergency dispatch operators have received. However, we rarely hear about the scariest moments.
AskReddit called on 911 operators to share the scariest call they’ve ever answered and here’s a list of the 10 most shocking. Full disclosure, some of these tales aren’t the most pleasant to read about.
1. “I could tell he was pretty messed up…”
I’m a 911 Police Dispatcher…So I get a call from a male who flipped his car on the highway and was trapped. This wasn’t unusual to be honest, it does happen from time to time, especially in rural areas and at night when people drive while they’re sleepy. Most people are bugging out and screaming while I try to get their info and send help. My job is basically to obtain a location, start police fire and ambulance rolling that way and keep the caller calm and speaking to me (to make sure he doesn’t lose consciousness).
So the involved driver, who I’ll call Zach, was about my age-ish, early 20s, very calm and cooperative and even joking. He was hanging upside down because the car was on its side and he had injured his leg. It was all good, help was about 10 minutes out and Zach and I were chatting and even laughing about this crazy experience. I knew he was blocking the roadway in his vehicle and was hoping a passer-by would stop and help him out.
Unfortunately, he was on a blind corner and a car came flying around and struck his rolled over vehicle while he was still talking to me. Lots of screaming and yelling, I could tell he was pretty messed up but I tried to keep him talking – he was just coughing and moaning. Sadly, the 10 things that need to happen for a car to ignite…happened. Smoke and flame started pouring into Zach’s car and he started screaming “Fire. I’m on Fire!”
Basically, I listened while this poor kid burned to death.
It’s easy to see why this one has stuck with the dispatcher. Just goes to show how easily things can go bad and I can’t even imagine what it would be like having to stay on the line whilst someone burns to death and there’s nothing you can do but listen. So awful.
2. “I just wanted to say goodbye really…”
The call went close to this: Me “111 emergency, fire, ambulance or police?”
Him “ah, I’m not sure, I just want someone to know where I am”
Me “are you in any danger? I can connect you to police?”
Him “I just wanted to say goodbye really”
Me “connecting you to police, please stay on the line with me”
Him pause “no, no it’s ok”
And then there was an awful noise where the guy has stepped into a geothermal hot pool at a park in Rotorua. The pool was at boiling temperature and he’s just hopped on in. Police took some time to answer the call and I had to explain to them what had happened. I won’t ever forget the noise, I can’t describe it well but it will be with me for the rest of my life.
It’s quite common for dispatchers to receive suicide calls where the person wants to be found by police rather than family but this one is such a bizarre method of suicide that it would certainly stand out. So sad the way he so matter of factly communicated with the dispatcher before stepping into the boiling pool.
3. “They went charging out there together…”
Woman on the line, screaming incoherently. I can tell she’s trying to say what’s happening, but I can’t make out a damn thing. Took forever, but managed to get out of her that her husband and son had heard the window of their truck smash outside.
They went charging out there together to catch the guy, but the guy was well prepared. Husband got stabbed, son got pepper sprayed, my caller was completely losing her mind. Ended up catching the guy because of the sheer volume of neighbours that ended up coming running out of their houses. Someone pinned him until we got there.
A reminder that property is less important than your life so don’t go confronting thieves who may be carrying weapons. Criminals are often dangerous and if the thief is a drug addict too, they are likely to be desperate and therefore more likely to act violently. Leave it to the police to handle. Gotta love a good citizen’s arrest though.
4. “This guy stayed up stewing…”
Not me, but my sister is a dispatcher. One time she received a call from a man who said he just killed his sister and brother. She kept him on the phone for 5 or 6 minutes to make sure he didn’t run before officers arrived. She got him to admit they had all been drinking and playing cards, then got into an argument when one of them accused the other of cheating.
The other two went to bed, but this guy stayed up stewing. Apparently he couldn’t let it go. He shot each of them in their beds while they slept, then called 911.
I thought this was some sort of incest love triangle going on but the poster clarified that he meant cheating whilst playing cards. That’s even more crazy in a way due to its sheer pettiness. Imagine killing your brother and sister because of potential cheating during a game? This goes way beyond competitive and the guy must have had some serious mental issues to think this was a proportionate response.
5. “She thinks she’s having a stroke…”
Older lady, I want to say maybe early 70s, calls in with a sort of polite urgency in her voice, tells me she thinks she’s having a stroke. Tells me she has her grandchild at the house with her, asks me to call her daughter to come get the child.
By the time she’s done giving me the phone number there’s just a very slight slur in her speech. By the time EMS got there (probably no more than 5 minutes or so) I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. Fascinating, disturbing, and profoundly sad hearing someone stroke out on the phone as they’re talking to you.
What a badass woman that she’s having a life-threatening stroke but her grandchild is her main priority. She appeared to be far more concerned about the grandchild’s welfare than her own. It sounds like it was lucky that help arrived so quickly as with strokes, every second counts to avoid extensive damage.
6. “Refused to give me any info on the suspect..”
7-8 years ago I took a 911 call from a man who came home to find his adult sister had been raped and beaten. The suspect had wrapped a telephone cord around her neck then tried to push her through the window of the apartment. He was understandably very distraught. She was still alive and was able to talk to me. She had not been blindfolded and I was certain I could get a description of the person who had done this to her.
She answered all of my other questions but absolutely refused to give me any info on the suspect. I later found out that the reason was self-preservation, the person who did it was the brother who called 911 for help. He was so believable it really messed with my head. I also felt horrible that I had continued pressing her for info with the person who hurt her was right there and that I could have potentially put her in more danger without realizing.
So messed up for so many reasons. How could a brother rape and almost kill his own sister and then call 911 and act all distraught explaining what had happened as though he had just found her that way? What a sicko. No wonder it messed with the dispatcher’s head after realising he had been communicating with the perpetrator.
7. “A couple of women absolutely screaming and wailing…”
Answered to the sounds of a couple of women absolutely screaming and wailing (I’m sure anyone that has done the job long enough knows the type of scream I mean – that blood curdling scream of someone in genuine anguish). Knew something was up and got police and ambulance on the way.
Trying to get them on the phone to get details and a boy of no more than five years old comes on the phone and says “my daddy is swinging from the roof and his eyes are open and staring”.
He had hung himself while his family were out doing their shopping.
Whatever your views on suicide, there’s no arguing that finding your loved one having killed themself must be so traumatising. So sad as it sounds like it was just a normal day, the family had gone out shopping and then came home to that. And even sadder that his young son had to witness his hanging body and it will probably affect him for the rest of his life.
8. “Tells me she can do compressions only…”
Took a call from a hysterical woman advising me of a rollover crash that happened near her house. She lives near the top of a blind hill that people like to “jump” (like catching that butterfly feeling in your stomach, although you can get air in the right vehicle). She tells me that a girl is laying on the ground about 30 feet or so from the vehicle.
When asked if the girl is alive, she says, “Oh yes, honey she’s wiggling around on the ground. My daughter is a nurse, she’s checking on her now.” Awesome. We hardly ever are lucky enough to have a trained professional on scene before a med unit can get there. But then she tells me her daughter is starting CPR.
To be honest, that didn’t surprise me. My caller was getting hysterical again and we already had first responders on the way, so I started asking more questions about the scene. Her daughter breaks CPR to get on the phone with me. Tells me she can do compressions only, that the girl’s jaw is completely gone.
A bit stunned, I tell her to continue compressions. But rather than getting put back on with the original caller, I hear the scared voice of a teenage girl, the driver. “Is my friend going to be okay?” I can’t find anything to say for a moment. Finally, after what seemed to be too long, I say “They’re doing CPR, dear. And we have help on the way. Are you and the other passenger okay?” “We’re fine. Just please tell me she’s okay.” The girl on the ground was confirmed D.O.A. She had been laying down in the back seat without her seat belt on because she had a headache. She was 15.
A reminder of the importance of wearing a seatbelt. Sounds absolutely horrific and props to the nurse for doing what she could to help. It sounds like they were all fairly young women and it is all the more tragic as it sounds like it was totally avoidable going on the basis the two seatbelt-wearing people were fine.
9. “Something seems off…”
One that sticks with me is a 14-year-old girl that calls the police for a disturbance. Officers show up and everything seems average. Parents advise the reporting party is upset because she isn’t allowed to go out with her boyfriend. Officers are getting ready to leave after being there for 40 minutes but something seems off to them.
The two officers take the 14-year-old outside and near their patrol units to speak to her. While they are walking outside the girl’s mother, stepfather and two sisters go and stand on the porch to see if they can see what is going on. They are unable to hear due to their officers and girl being on the other side of the street. It was then when the stepfather started pacing and went inside.
The girl brakes down and tells the officers that her stepdad has been sexually assaulting her for years and he didn’t want her to go see her boyfriend because he was jealous.
The officers look up and at that moment they see the stepfather shoot the mother in the back of the head. He proceeds to shoot the reporting party’s older sister in the chest and her younger sister in the leg as they started running away. One officer returns fire while the other is shielding the reporting party. The stepfather runs inside and barricades himself. The reporting party tells the officer that her two brothers are inside with the stepfather. Back up arrives and surround the home.
The officers make forced entry after they hear gunfire from inside. They storm the residence and find the stepfather has shot himself in the head with his two biological sons in the same room.
The mother died instantly, the older sister died instantly, the younger sister was hospitalized ( I don’t know if she made it, just know she was flown to a hospital miles away.) This 14-year-old lost her family. Later the investigators were taking her statement and her only reply was “Last time I tried to tell someone the truth I lost my family, doesn’t matter what I say. I’m alone now.” It took hours to get in contact with the family. Eventuality we were able to get in touch with her grandparents and she left with them.
Family annihilators make you sick to the stomach. So heartbreaking that this girl had been abused for years by a man who then killed most of her family. Worse still, her comment to the investigators afterwards suggests she blames herself for simply telling the truth about what had been happening to her. So so tragic.
10. “It’s all my fault…”
The first truly serious call I took was for a rape. A woman in her early 20s had just procured a well paying job and went to the club to celebrate with her friends. Met up with a local musician and invited him back to her room. She was down for sex, but he wanted anal. She said no, and he did it anyway. Very aggressively.
I got the call a few hours later. She’s just softly crying into the phone. She gives me the basic details and I dispatch the police, but we need to stay on the line with the caller until they arrive.
Those few minutes it took for the police to arrive, I think about them more than I care to admit. I tried my best to console her but all she did was cry softly into the phone, and kept repeating two phrases. “It’s all my fault”, and “There’s so much blood”.
She ended up dropping the whole thing. She was worried that it would reflect poorly on her new job. Which, in the field she was in, she was right. Nothing ever happened to the guy and I still see his name around sometimes.
An example of one of the many genuine cases of rape that go unreported due to the fear of negative repercussions. It makes it all the more infuriating when you hear the stories of people making fake rape claims when there are real victims who don’t get heard. Absolutely vile and I hope she got the help she needed after her ordeal.
So there you have it, folks. A list of 10 shocking calls made to emergency dispatchers that make the hairs on my neck shoot straight up. Whether they’re receiving funny calls, drunks calls, or gruesome calls, emergency dispatchers deserve all the praise in the world for their tolerance. Cheers to you!
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