Why one woman was turned away by 911, FOX23 investigates


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Reported by: Shae Rozzi
Updated: 2/11 8:18 am Published: 2/10 9:14 pm


PAWNEE COUNTY, Okla. - When you have an emergency, you call 911.

It's what we're all trained to do and what we teach our kids to do.

A green country woman contacted FOX23 after she called 911 and couldn't get help. FOX23 investigated what went wrong and how to avoid flaws like this from happening again.

FOX23 crew went to Donna Larson’s house to learn more about her and her story.

"That's Lulu. She's the good goat," said Larson.

That’s Jack, you can see the horn,” Larson told FOX23.

Yes, Lulu is Donna Larson’s good goat and Jack is the bad one.  Jack rammed Larson in the leg with one of his horns back in December.

She was bleeding badly, "It was pretty deep. You could see the bone. I didn't know what to do," Larson explained.

She decided she needed help so she called 911 from her cellphone.

"I said well I got a really bad leg cut, clear to the bone and I need some help," Larson said to the 911 operator.

Larson then gave the dispatcher her address near Mannford in Pawnee County.

The dispatcher told her, "well there's no way that we can help you."

Larson told FOX23 she was in shock, “I said, what? He said, ‘We're not capable of going there’ so I said you can refer me to someone who can, transfer my call and he said ‘we're not equipped to do that.’ And I said, 'could you give me the number to call' and he said, ‘I have no idea.’”

In a panic she ran to her neighbors, who drove her to the hospital.

She ended up with nearly 30 stitches.

“If he had sliced me where there was an artery or a vein, I wouldn't have made it,” Larson said.

Donna Larson decided to call 911 again the next day to ask why she couldn't get help when she needed it.

She believes this call was picked up by Osage County, “and she said, ‘ma'am, it's your responsibility to know what your emergency numbers are.’ I said what's my emergency number if it's not 911? She said, ‘I have no idea. That's your responsibility’ and that ticked me off, Larson told us.

Furious, she called FOX23 for answers.

We began our investigation, first calling Pawnee County dispatch.

The fire chief in charge declined our request for an on-camera interview.

He told me he's not sure if Larson’s first call came into his center because they can only look back at the 100 most recent calls and too much time had passed.

FOX23 then called Osage County. The director of dispatch told me she couldn't find a record of Larson’s number around the time of her emergency either.

Carolyn Smythe is the director of Mannford Ambulance Service, the agency that should have been dispatched to Donna’s house.

Smythe told FOX23, “I feel it's a failure for our part too because we weren't called. We didn't know that she had an emergency.”

FOX23 asked Smythe, “And you would technically be the closest ambulance provider?”

Smythe replied, “We would've been, yeah, we would've been.”

Smythe told FOX23 she's horrified by Larson’s 911 experience but not surprised since Larson called 911 from her cellphone, “You don't know where your cellphone is going to, that's the problem,” Smythe said.

When you dial 911 on your cellphone, your call may be picked up by the closest cell tower but if that tower is busy, your call gets bumped to another tower.

That could be in another county, even another state.

“You can be transferred to Tulsa, to Sand Springs, to Okmulgee, Okemah, anywhere but that dispatch center should have enough info to get you where you need for help," Smythe said.

It's Mannford’s policy to send an ambulance even if they get a call from outside their area. Until they know a closer agency is responding.

“If I am the only available one we are going to go until we take care of that patient," Smythe told FOX23.

Larson has now programmed her ambulance provider into her cellphone, with the local Mannford number, hoping she never has to use it.


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Mayor Maynot - 2/12/2014 9:47 AM
0 Votes
Heck I called 911 once told them my neighbor threatened me with a saber. They said they couldn't dispatch police to my incident. Neighbor is a drunk on parole. If he ever comes at me I'll need to take the saber from him and give him a colostomy :-)

Christina - 2/11/2014 8:38 PM
0 Votes
I live in Osage County northwest of Sand Springs and have had issues with emergency responders as well. My home was burglarized of most our guns, leaving us completely vulnerable and we had to wait 1 hour until Sheriff could get to us. A few years later, a man exposed himself to me on the highway and then proceeded to follow me. I managed to speed ahead of him over a hill when my alternator gave out leaving me stranded. I was on the phone with my mom who had my dad call 911 while she kept me on the phone. Sand Springs dispatch had a good description of my location, but claimed they didn't know who's jurisidiction it was. Funny, because Osage County, OHP and Park Rangers all patrol this area for speeding, but none were dispatched to my aid. Luckily, my husband was able to make it to me before the pervert. Needless to say, we both now have conceal carry permits.

Soonermama3 - 2/11/2014 3:51 PM
0 Votes
unclebobby you are incorrect, the pawnee county line is actually just 2.5 miles north of the main stoplight in Mannford, right before you get to the Y. So if she lives in either basin, then she lives in Pawnee county but has a Mannford address. I know this, bc that is where I live as well. In my opinion, every 911 dispatch in every county should have a list of all the numbers and it is terrible that this level of incompetence in todays technological age still exists. Lucky this woman was able to get help.

unclebobby - 2/11/2014 1:43 PM
0 Votes
Mannford is in Creek County. The Pawnee County line is miles and miles from Mannford. Osage County is even farther away from Mannford and outlying areas. Nowhere in your story did you mention Creek County authorities. Creek County would be the dispatching agency for a Mannford ambulance. Did you even call Creek County? Why would your first thoughts be to call two counties that do not include Mannford? Also, there's no such thing as a "Pawnee County" fire chief. The reason you didn't get answers is because you didn't even contact the right people. What shoddy reporting. And your headline is libelous. Since you didn't even interview the right people in the right county, how is this woman's story anything but her account? It doesn't prove that 911 wouldn't help her.

piratemom - 2/11/2014 12:56 PM
1 Vote
I live in the same area and have had the same experience but it was not with the ambulance it was fire. I was told to contact the fire department closest to me that 911 could not transfer me. I had to look in the phone book for the 10 digit phone number locally to call to respond. 911 is of no use in this rural area. It is not anything against the Mannford departments...it is the 911 system. Mannford does not know you are trying to reach them. You have to dial local numbers.

bbautista - 2/11/2014 12:41 PM
0 Votes
I HAD SOMEBODY TRYING TO BREAK INTO MY HOUSE AND THEY BEAT ONE OF MY DOGS TO DEATH AND BADLY INJURE ANOTHER I CALLED TULSA POLICE AND THEY TOLD ME THAT THIS MATTER WAS NOT AN EMERGENCY TO CALL THE NONE EMERGENCY NUMBER AND I ASKED HER WHAT IS THAT NUMBER SHE SAID TO LOOK IN MY PHONE BOOK I WAS STUNNED.

Unwashed Mass - 2/11/2014 9:50 AM
2 Votes
It's absurd that any 911 dispatch would not have a list of phone numbers handy for any emergency service in their area. That is pure incompetence.

kindagreywolf - 2/11/2014 3:08 AM
1 Vote
I have ambulance and fire in my contacts in case of emergency. Police Department I don't bother with as they have still not answered a call from 2011. And then they have "Operation Slick Streets", "Operation I am playing on facebook" and are to busy writing minor traffic tickets to deal with emergencies. I know the 911 service in Tulsa seriously needs to be revamped and more employees added.

LynnPulver - 2/11/2014 12:04 AM
1 Vote
mannford EMS is the most worthless ive seen. They are as corrupt and lazy as their PD...
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