The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 4, 2014

Dispatcher honored for unheralded work

OTTUMWA — A routine night on the job drastically changed for Wapello County dispatcher Betsy Lewis one night late last winter, and if it wasn’t for the effort and compassion she demonstrated a life would have been lost.

Lewis said she had only been working her shift that night for about an hour when a distressed call came in. The subject told her they wanted to end his or her life, and asked Lewis if the call would be traceable. Since the person was using a cell phone, Lewis informed them that she would not be able to locate where the call was coming from, and the subject rapidly hung up the phone, leaving Lewis without a place to send deputies who were on call.

A normal person might have panicked in this situation or just given up when there didn’t seem to be enough information. Lewis, though, knew she had to find out where the call came from.

“I was just doing my job,” she said. “It was pretty much like, ‘I just have to help this person.’”

Right away she started calling cell phone providers in the area, and found out the cell phone was a Verizon Tracphone, and there wasn’t an account that had a name with it.

While Lewis was contacting the phone companies, she said she couldn’t get the thought out of her head that she had heard the voice sometime before. That’s when she decided to look up old calls, and miraculously found a name that she thought matched the voice.

She told deputies to head to the residence where the old call had come in from, and luckily when they arrived on the scene they found the subject inside a garage with the car running, trying to asphyxiate him or herself. The deputies were then able to get the subject out of the garage to safety.

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