SANDUSKY, Ohio (WJW) — About 10 p.m. on April 22, Erie County dispatchers gets a 911 call from a woman who tells them she is concerned about her grandmother.
The woman did not come home as expected and after spending hours searching for her the caller is worried.
“The deputies had us enter a ‘be on the lookout’ so that goes into our system, it goes out to all of the systems that we dispatch for,” said dispatcher Jordan Vanichek.
Authorities then asked the woman’s cell phone carrier to “ping” her phone to try and get a location.
The “ping” showed about a five-mile radius around the village of Bay View.
“So, kind of concerning knowing that most of that area is over water and even this land area, these are mostly ponds,” said Vanichek.
Deputies then started patrolling the area but could not find any sign of the woman. Dispatchers continue trying to call the number, and about 3:30 a.m. she answered.
“She actually answers the phone and she tells us she has been at home the entire time and she has been yelling for help,” said Vanichek.
But she was not at home.
“She said she saw her rearview mirror, I think that’s what she said, and then she said a large white bag in front of you and I’m like, ‘Ok, you have probably been in a crash’ and she said she was very cold and she wanted a blanket,” said Vanichek..
Dispatcher Haley Rankins kept the woman on the phone.
“When I first called her I asked if I was speaking with Gail and she said yes and I asked, ‘do you know where you are?’ And she said ‘no.'” said Rankins.
While they were talking, deputies were patrolling the area using their sirens and blowing their horns with dispatchers listening to see if they could hear anything.
“I said, ‘Gail, I really need you to call 911,’ and I could tell she was trying to but she was unable to,” said Rankins.
The incoming 911 call would give dispatchers a more precise location. But because she was unable to do it, the search continued.
A relative told authorities that they had been working with the woman to teach her how to use the ‘virtual assistant’ Siri on her phone.
Rankins, still on the phone with the woman, urged her to ask Siri to call 911 for her.
“I said, ‘Can you tell Siri to call 911?’ and repeated it about three more times and she said OK and she hung up and we just waited,” said Rankins.
“The longest 10 seconds of our lives waiting to see if it was actually going to work and after about 10 seconds, our Rapid S.O.S. system pinged and right after that our 911 call rang in.” said Vanichek.
The Rapid S.O.S system gave them an exact location at an intersection where her car had gone off the road into a thick stand of tall grass and trees.
The location was just a few yards from the Bay View police department.
Authorities were dispatched to the scene where the woman was extricated from her car, and taken to a local hospital.
The words “we found her” were a relief to everyone involved.
“Who would have thought that Siri would save the day?” said Vanichek saying the rescue happened with only about an hour left on their 12 hour shift.
Sheriff Paul Sigsworth says the search was the result of a multi-agency effort but he praises the dispatchers for their dedication, their caring and their tenacity.
“A lot of times we don’t get closure in here when it comes to calls, so being able to know that she was OK was a great feeling,” said Rankins.