The 13-year-old saw her father hit by a car while he was changing a tire on the side of a highway about 20 miles from Baltimore. She watched the vehicle speed away from the scene. Then she called 911.
As she struggled to explain the situation, the dispatcher told her to "stop whining."
The father died later that Sunday night and public outrage has grown through the week after media reports of the accident and the exchange with the 911 dispatcher flooded the airways. People were overwhelmingly critical of the dispatcher by a ratio of about 10 to 1, Capt. Russ Davies, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
“The dispatcher has been placed in a job where he has no public contact until we complete the process of the investigation,” Davies said. There is no time frame for completing the probe, he said on Friday.
“Dispatchers are trained to take control,” Davies said. “When they have a hysterical caller, they are trained to focus them, but how this dispatcher proceeded to do that doesn’t meet our expectations of how that would occur,” he said. “That’s not how the public expects to be treated when calling 911 in an emergency like that.”
According to Davies, there are about five dispatchers on duty at any one time and about 25 in the department. Fire department officials have not identified the dispatcher involved in the car crash call.
The incident began after 9 p.m. on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near Laurel, Md., when Rick Warrick, 38, of Washington pulled over to change a flat tire. His fiancee, Julia Pearce, 28, also left the vehicle, leaving Warrick’s 13-year-old daughter and her younger brother in the back seat.
Warrick had just completed swapping the tires when another car hit him and his fiancee. The car's driver didn't stop and there have been no arrests in the case, officials said.
Warrick later died and Pearce remains hospitalized in fair condition, according to Davies.
The 13-year-old girl called 911. According to the tape, released by officials, the dispatcher seemingly didn’t realize she is a teenager, calling the girl ma’am. The child sounds like she is struggling to remain calm.
“Can you all please hurry up,” she tells the operator.
“Ma'am, stop yelling,” he replies. “I need a location.”
She says she is at the side of the road, that her father and his fiancee were fixing their tire when they were hit by a vehicle that “kept going.”
“So two people were struck?” the operator said.
“Yes, they both laying, they both just laying …” Warrick's daughter says, voice seeming to crack.
“OK, let's stop whining,” the operator says. “OK? Let's stop whining. It's hard to understand you.”
The operator eventually asks Warrick's daughter if there's anyone else he can talk to at the scene, and later tells her to “stop yelling” as she pleads for help.
Capt. Davies insisted that the confused call didn’t have an impact on the department’s response time.
Another call was made within a minute to the Fire Department’s Maryland City station, advising them of the incident and units were dispatched to the scene at 9:15:41 while the girl was still talking to 911. It was not known who made the second call.
“While the call did not meet our expectations, we do not believe it affected dispatch time,” Davies said.