Dispatcher recordings reveal dramatic Missouri River rescue

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – We’ve learned new details about the dramatic rescue of a woman who fell into the Missouri River two weeks ago while running in a park.

Fox 2/News 11 obtained the police dispatch communications which laid out how first responders were able to find the woman.

“The female (is) saying she was walking on a trail and fell off; now into the river holding onto roots,” said St. Louis County police dispatcher Jessica Fink, moments after the 911 call came in on March 13 just after 8:30 p.m.

Fink was dispatching officers to respond to the call.

“It is nerve-racking,” she said. “It’s always stressful in the moment, for sure.”

Authorities said a 47-year-old St. Charles woman was running at the Riverwoods Park and Trail area in St. Louis County near the Blanchette Bridge. She was with her dog when she slipped and fell into the river. She clung to tree roots and her dog’s leash as she called 911.

Fink could be heard on the dispatcher call: “The female is stating that she is north of the casino. She has a phone, may possibly have dropped the phone, she’s not talking anymore, she was crying hysterically.”

While Fink was dispatching county police, another dispatcher, Paul Koehnemann, was on the phone with the woman.

“This is as hard as it gets. This is a life at stake in the cold, dark waters of a flooded river,” he said.

Koehnemann tried to reassure the woman that help was on way. At the same time, he was getting all the information he could from her.

“So I started to ask questions on what could you see so I can verify where she is, directions, how to get there, backtrack the roads she took to get there, so I knew exactly where she was, where to send help to,” he said. “I want to be as calm as possible and keep her level-headed.”

As officers arrived, they asked Koehnemann to get information from the woman about her location.

Those details were then relayed to the officers by Fink.

St. Louis County police officer Blair Turner was one of the first at the scene.

“It was kind of a race against the clock to find her in time,” she said.

Turner and another officer started combing the trail looking for the woman and calling her name. One of the big breaks came about 10 minutes into the call when workers were able to get a solid location on her from her cellphone.

“Central County Fire is saying that she is in the inlet behind the Lansing Building Products,” Fink said on the recording.

Turner and another officer eventually found her; firefighters from Pattonville and St. Charles helped in the rescue as well.

“The water was right up to her chin and all I could see was kind of her head and her face peeking out,” Turner said.

Koehnemann stayed on the phone with the woman the entire time; Fink kept the officers informed and somehow the woman didn’t let go of anything.

“I’m glad that I was able to be a part of it and I was glad that I was able to give her the help that she needed,” Koehnemann said.

Officer Turner added: “The fact that she was ok was why we do it.”

Koehnemann said the woman’s cellphone went dead at one point, which worried him, but then she came back on the line.

“We didn’t give up until they found her,” Fink said.

The woman suffered only minor hypothermia and her dog was ok. She declined to be interviewed for this story.

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