911 dispatcher 3-day suspension ends after man drowns in SUV

November 6, 2013 (ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.)

The elderly driver drowned in a northwest suburban pond. He called 911 for help.

"I drove through and I'm in the lake and hurry up I'm sinking. Hurry up, I'm sinking, the water is coming up," said Henry Laseke, 89.

Laseke drowned after his car ended up a pond in Arlington Heights in the 1500-block of Courtland Drive. Investigators say the 911 recording shows the dispatcher did not advise him to try and get out of the sinking SUV. They say that's an apparent violation of the agency's protocol.

Officials say the dispatcher was on vacation when all workers were requested to get a review of water rescue protocols.

Neighbors said they think Laseke was trying to back into his garage when he hit the accelerator. A widower, Laseke lived alone. Several neighbors also called 911.

"The car is nose diving down as we talk," one witness told a dispatcher.

Laseke was the third one to call.

"Help me, help me quick. I live on the courtyard, on the pond, I go into the lake," Laseke told the dispatcher. His brand new Cadillac continued to sink. He told the dispatcher he put his foot on the accelerator.

The dispatcher keeps Laseke on the line, trying to get him to calm down. Laseke is heard talking to someone else, Rick Geiger, a neighbor who swam out to help, but couldn't get the door or a window open.

"He was in shock, he had his cell phone in his hand. I tried to get him to acknowledge he saw me but was frozen," Geiger said of the rescue attempt.

Geiger said Laseke couldn't follow his directions to open the door. The 911 operator was still on the line, but Laseke didn't respond.

"Can you hear me?" she asked. "He is not hearing me."

Arlington Heights Fire Department divers also couldn't break the Cadillac's glass. Several minutes after his call for help, Laseke's SUV was pulled out of the water, but it was too late.

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