911 tape: Drowning woman’s coherent call brought rescuers

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911 tape: Drowning woman’s coherent call brought rescuers

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David Tulis
Officials help to remove an SUV that was submerged in a pond off Batesville Road in rural Cherokee County after a driver was rescued by firefighters near Atlanta National Golf Course early Monday morning, Dec. 29, 2014, in Canton.

A newspaper delivery woman showed grace under pressure while trying to tell a 911 operator the location of her SUV as it filled with water after she drove into a pond Monday.

Shannell Latrice Anderson, 31, sank in the darkness around 4 a.m. in her Nissan Xterra, but she had the presence of mind to call both 911 and a fellow delivery driver to convey her plight, a review of the 911 tapes shows.

Her quick thinking may have saved her life, although the Sandy Springs woman remained in critical condition in North Fulton Hospital on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, at a time when minutes count, the name of the street she had driven off was obscure and confusing — The Fairway — which required the 911 operator to ask repeatedly for the location. The confusion was exacerbated because the subdivision street near Atlanta National Golf Course was in Cherokee County and her emergency call had gone to the Alpharetta emergency services.

Shortly after the call to 911 aborted, Anderson called a colleague in the hope he could better identify her location and to tell him she couldn’t open the car doors.

The drama unfolded on the emergency call in which the 911 operator tries to identify the accident location and Anderson tries to convey the information while maintaining her air supply.

Operator: 911 what is the address of the emergency? (Water can be heard sloshing; the operator repeats the question.)

Anderson: I’m in a car in a lake.

Operator: Where?

Anderson: The Fairway off of Batesville (Road) 30188 (water sloshing more loudly as she moves around in the SUV).

Operator: Is that the address where the lake is?

Anderson: Yes ma’am. (Breathes heavily.)

Operator: Give me the address again to make sure I have it right.

Anderson: The Fairway.

Operator: The Fairway?

Anderson: The Fairway as in golf course.

Operator: The Fairway? Batesville and what … Batesville and where?

Anderson: The Fairway and Batesville.

Operator: Batesville and what?

Anderson: The Fairway is a street, ma’am.

Operator: Fairway? I don’t have that. Is that in Milton? What city is that in?

Anderson: 30188 (more water sloshing as she gives the zip code) Ma’am, I’m losing air very quickly.

Operator: Give me the address again. It is not working….

Anderson: The Fairway (voice becomes inaudible as panic sets in; water sloshing; line goes dead).

Operator: Ma’am… (Then to a colleague) I lost her. She’s in a lake.

The operator notified Cherokee County 911 and by 4:27 a.m., fire department divers were shattering the SUV window, pulling Anderson ashore and beginning to resuscitate her.

But before they got there, Anderson, a contract employee for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution distributor, had called a colleague, Wayne Copeland, who called Cherokee 911.

He reported she was in a lake, although he, too, was unfamiliar with the terrain to pinpoint the location.

He tells the operator Anderson’s name and that she drives a champagne-colored SUV. The operator asks Copeland if the vehicle is in the water.

“Yes, she is in a vehicle and she said she is in the lake and her doors won’t open,” Copeland told the operator. “That was about 10 minutes ago and we can’t get her back on the phone.”

The 911 operator assures Copeland that rescuers are on the way.

—Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this report.

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