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updated: 7/30/2013 5:12 AM

Inquiry launched into Arlington Heights man's 911 call from sinking SUV

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  • Northwest Central Dispatch is investigating whether dispatchers properly handled 911 calls made Thursday morning after an Arlington Heights man accidentally drove his vehicle into a pond near his home. The driver, 89-year-old Henry Laseke, later died.

       Northwest Central Dispatch is investigating whether dispatchers properly handled 911 calls made Thursday morning after an Arlington Heights man accidentally drove his vehicle into a pond near his home. The driver, 89-year-old Henry Laseke, later died.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Northwest Central Dispatch System has opened an investigation into the handling of a 911 call from an 89-year-old Arlington Heights man who drowned Thursday after accidentally driving his SUV into a pond near his home.

A recording of the 911 call Henry Laseke made as his vehicle was sinking into the pond was released by the dispatch agency Monday, along with those of emergency calls from five neighbors.

On the call Laseke can be heard saying "Help me, help me quick," and explaining that he accidentally accelerated his Cadillac SUV and plunged into the pond.

"Hurry up I'm sinking" Laseke said. "I'm in the lake and I'm sinking."

The dispatcher can be heard repeatedly telling Laseke to calm down and that help is on the way. She asks if he is in the car, what kind of car it is and what happened.

Toward the end of the call it seems Laseke is talking to himself or one of the neighbors who jumped into the pond to try to rescue him. Laseke then goes quiet, and the dispatcher continues trying to speak with him for another minute before the call is disconnected.

Arlington Heights Fire Department dive crews removed the vehicle from the water and transported Laseke to Northwest Community Hospital, where he later died. For sensitivity, the Daily Herald has edited the call as it appears online.

Six calls, including Laseke's, came in within one minute just before 7 a.m. Thursday, according to Northwest Central Dispatch. The Arlington Heights-based agency handles 911 calls for 11 Northwest suburbs, including Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect and Buffalo Grove.

Neighbors who called 911 described seeing the SUV in the pond, a small fire caused by Laseke hitting a utility box and two men jumping into the pond to help. Dispatchers advised neighbors to stay on the line and not go into the pond because of safety concerns.

"We understand that the public expects every call to be handled in the most timely and professional way possible," a statement from Northwest Central Dispatch System reads. "However, if there are incidents or circumstances that require us to take a closer look, it's our job to do so. That's why NWCDS is currently conducting an inquiry into last week's incident to determine whether all standards and protocols were met. This inquiry will include a full review of all the 911 calls and reports; and interviews with responding personnel and relevant dispatch personnel.

"That inquiry is ongoing. It would not be appropriate at this stage to make a judgment call about whether the call was handled properly until our inquiry is complete."

No dispatchers have been placed on administrative leave as a result of the inquiry, according to the statement.

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