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Frantic biker to 911: `I am almost dying'

By Mary Ann Fergus and Liam Ford
Tribune staff reporters
Published July 15, 2006

Seriously injured when his motorcycle crashed into a cornfield, Kurt Regnier's pleas for help became increasingly desperate during a 911 call to McHenry County sheriff's office dispatchers, according to a recording and transcripts released Friday.

"I'm lying down. I am almost dying," Regnier, 47, told a dispatcher early during an eight-minute cell phone conversation that began at 1:28 a.m. last Sunday.

But Regnier didn't know where he was, and neither his cell phone nor McHenry County's 911 system were equipped with the technology that could have located him.

None of the questions asked by dispatchers helped to pinpoint his location, according the transcripts and recording released by McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren.

"OK. Where are you at?" the dispatcher said.

"I don't know. I just fell," replied Regnier, a lifelong resident of Capron, in Boone County, about eight miles west of Harvard.

"OK. You are in Harvard somewhere?" the dispatcher asked.

After Regnier moaned and said, "Yeah," he was asked five times if he is on U.S. Highway 14.

"I don't know. I just don't," said Regnier, who repeatedly pleaded with the dispatchers to "help me."

"We're trying to, hon," said a second dispatcher. "I know you are hurt and scared. You have to help me find you."

But toward the end of the call, he responded to questions by crying, "Help. Help. Help. Help. Help."

Despite a search by authorities in three counties, Regnier wasn't found until shortly after dawn when a passerby saw the wrecked motorcycle. By then, he was dead, apparently of multiple injuries that included a broken neck, ribs and leg.

The best dispatchers could do was figure out the location of the cellular tower that picked up his call--southeast of Harvard, near U.S. 14. That left sheriff's police with a 20-mile radius around the tower to search.

Regnier's family said this week that he had been on the way home from a NASCAR race in Joliet when he crashed in the darkened cornfield off Dunham Road, five miles from his home.

A second call

The call to McHenry was the first of two that Regnier made before he died.

The second call, at 1:36 a.m., was routed to Winnebago County's 911 center, because it was picked up by a cell tower in that area--likely because cell traffic near Harvard was congested. The call confused authorities, and police in McHenry, Winnebago and Boone Counties launched a search, which included dispatching a private helicopter with spotlights and thermal imaging technology.

Nygren said it was clear from the recording that the dispatchers were frustrated about being unable to help Regnier. But he said he couldn't fault their work.

"When you're involved in an emergency like that, the heart starts pounding, not just the victim but the dispatcher," Nygren said. "They're trying to do anything they can to get something to help identify this individual and pinpoint his location. It's horribly frustrating."

The first dispatcher had been on the job for less than a year. The second was more experienced.

Regnier correctly said his name three times, but the second dispatcher misunderstood and called him "Kerry Wagner" for the rest of the conversation.

Neither dispatcher questioned Regnier about nearby landmarks, and he didn't offer any.

Upgrades set

Nygren said he also might call for more sensitivity training for dispatchers.

"Our demeanor and the way we come across in something like this, if nothing else, might calm people down," he said.

McHenry County officials have set a February target date for fully upgrading the county's 911 system to give dispatchers the ability to locate within about 500 feet someone with a cell phone that has Global Positioning System capability. Upgraded systems also can use another method to locate cell phone callers.

Winnebago County has not released transcripts or recordings of the second call. Officials there have said that state-of-the-art 911 communications capability should be in place next month.

The upgrading of both the Winnebago and McHenry County systems is part of a nationwide increase in the capabilities of local 911 systems. About 76 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas with 911 systems that can trace the calls.

Regnier's family had not heard the recordings by late Friday afternoon and declined to comment.

But earlier this week, one of Regnier's three sisters, Beverly Waterman, said she was "sure the police did everything they could" to find her brother.

Source: Chicago Tribune

14 Posts
Thats scarry right there. I have gps enabled at ALL times on my cell phone and try to remember to turn it on prior to starting solo adventures.
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