AUDIO: Flash flood drowning victim’s 911 call


911 call of drowning victim Debra Stevens

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) β€” The Fort Smith Police Department has released the 911 call of a drowning death.

On Saturday morning, August 24, a Fort Smith woman was at work delivering newspapers, but this day was different. A rainstorm happened which created flash flooding, and then swift waters swept away the woman’s SUV, according to a Fort Smith police report.

Debra Stevens

Fort Smith resident, Debra Stevens, who was in the area of the 5800 block of Kinkead Avenue, called 911 around 4:38 a.m. and at that time her vehicle was caught in a thicket of trees off the roadway β€” the water continued to rise around her. Responders arrived at the scene at 4:50:39 and found the car by 5:02:29 a.m. according to the dispatch log provided by FSPD.

Police state that her first call was to family and then 911. “The 911 operator who took the call dispatched Fort Smith Fire and Police units who were inundated with 911 calls from other citizens also stranded in floodwaters. Also exacerbating response and rescue efforts were the facts that Mrs. Stevens was having trouble describing her exact location and flooding limited the ability of first responders to reach her.”

The 911 dispatcher who took the call from Stevens had resigned and it was her last night as a dispatcher.

FSPD said an officer on the scene was set to attempt a rescue, switching out duty gear and putting on a life vest, tieing a rope, etc., but the speed and volume of the water made the rescue impossible. When first responders finally reached her it was too late β€” she had already drowned.

*WARNING: 911 call from the victim on the morning of the tragedy*

*KNWA has edited the audio clip and removed what we believe is the last moments of Debra Stevens’ life.

Chief of Police Danny Baker provides this statement on the events of that morning: β€œI 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.”  

Timeline of events

FSPD body cam video of the rescue attempt.


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