DOVER, Del. (AP) — Emergency calls made by passengers and passing motorists capture the chaos, fear and confusion in the aftermath of a tour bus crash in Delaware that left three people dead.
Audio recordings of several 911 calls obtained by The Associated Press Thursday under the Freedom of Information Act also indicate that 911 operators struggled to learn exactly where the Sept. 21 crash occurred because passengers didn’t know where they were.
“I have no idea where we are,” a distraught female passenger with a thick accent told a 911 operator. “Between Washington and Philadelphia. Somewhere between Washington and Philadelphia.”
“Can you find us?” the woman asks in a plaintive plea for help.
Another caller tells a 911 operator that “everyone is bleeding.”
“We are on the way to Philadelphia, but I don’t know the exact route, from Maryland to Philadelphia,” the man says.
The callers described how people were bleeding and trapped, but they often had to wait anxious seconds as calls were transferred, often not smoothly, from 911 operators to fire and ambulance dispatchers.
“Fire and ambulance. Fire and ambulance. Fire and ambulance,” a dispatcher says monotonously in one recording, waiting to hear from someone on the other end.
A 911 operator who took the initial call is then heard speaking with the dispatcher, giving him a rough idea of the caller’s location, apparently based on cellphone tracing.
“He’s mapping to Bear and Red Lion,” the operator tells the dispatcher. “…. He said they had a bus rollover and they had over 50 people on the bus. He said there were multiple injuries but that’s all I could get. Now he’s not on the phone anymore.”
Many of the callers had foreign accents, but it is not clear whether the bus driver himself, who speaks barely any English, tried to call.
The driver, Jinli Zhao, 56, of Flushing, New York, is charged with operating a vehicle causing the death of another person.
A court commissioner rescheduled a preliminary hearing for Zhao earlier this month after he could not answer simple questions posed to him, relying on a friend to interpret what was being said.
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