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Ill. 911 agency begins inquiry into man’s drowning

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – Authorities are investigating whether a suburban Chicago 911 dispatcher properly handled a call from a man who drowned after his SUV plunged into a retention pond, officials said.

Transcripts from Thursday’s call by 89-year-old Henry Laseke show the Arlington Heights man urging rescuers to hurry because his vehicle was sinking.

“Help me, help me quick,” Laseke tells a dispatcher with the Northwest Central Dispatch System, which handles 911 calls for 11 communities. “Hurry up, I’m sinking. I’m in the lake and I’m sinking.”

The dispatcher, whose name wasn’t released and who remains on the job, repeatedly tries to calm Laseke during the nearly three-minute call.

“Sir, sir, calm down,” she said. “I’m getting you out.”

She assures him that help is on the way and asks for information about his SUV, a Cadillac. The veteran dispatcher never asks if he can open a window or if he’s able to escape.

Laseke’s words trail off toward the end of the call as the dispatcher tries to speak with him before the line disconnects

Witnesses told authorities that two people jumped into the water to try to help Laseke escape, but couldn’t get him out of the SUV.

Firefighters tried to break the windows of the submerged vehicle, but couldn’t free Laseke, whose body was ultimately removed after emergency workers used a winch to pull the car from the water, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“It would not be appropriate at this stage to make a judgment call about whether the call was handled properly until our inquiry is complete,” Northwest Central Dispatch System officials said in a written statement. “Every call is different, and every set of circumstances is different.”

The agency says it will conduct a “full review of all the 911 calls and reports” while also conducting interviews with employees.

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