Police in Marshalltown, Iowa release a chilling two-minute 911 call from the night three children drowned in the Iowa River. It’s a frantic 911 call from a family member pleading for help.
“Hello? Ma’am I cannot understand you. You need to tell me what’s going on. Do you need an ambulance?” Says a 911 operator.
A pair of operators struggle to figure out what’s going on throughout the two-minute call.
The caller is a refugee from Myanmar who barely speaks English. Communication with these immigrants is often a challenge even in good times. But in this terrifying situation it’s nearly impossible.
“Ma’am I’m having trouble understanding you, where are you? OK are you in Riverview Park?” Says the 911 operator.
Officers and search crews dispatched to Riverview Park combed the river for hours, but their hopes of a safe rescue were eventually dashed.
“She was saying Riverview correct? That’s what I heard but I couldn’t understand anything else,” says the other 911 operator.
The Marshalltown Police Chief says the Iowa River can be extremely deceptive. One moment you can be in shallow water, and the very next moment you can find yourself in several feet of water.
“The river looks relatively calm down in the location where this occurred, and in many areas down there it’s very shallow but there’s areas that can drop off to 12 and 14 feet and the undercurrent can be very dangerous in any river,” says Marshall Town Police Chief Mike Tupper.
Less than three hours after the frantic 911 call the bodies of all three children had been located.
Funeral arrangements are being made, and emergency responders are trying to spread the word that this river is no place to play.
“The message that we are trying to get out to people is that the river is not a safe place. It’s not a safe place to swim for adults let alone children,” says Tupper.
Funeral services have been set for the three children.
They’ll take place Sunday at two pm at Marshalltown’s Center School Cemetery.