Salisbury woman says 911 dispatcher hung up on her; officials disagree
Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2018
SALISBURY — When Angela Corriher stopped at a convenience store near her home Sunday, she had no idea that minutes later she would witness a possibly intoxicated driver on the road.
She said her ride became quite scary when she believed a Rowan County 911 dispatcher she had called for help hung up on her.
County officials say the dispatcher did not hang up. Corriher, as well, now says that didn’t happen.
Corriher was traveling on U.S. 70 on Sunday morning when she saw a silver vehicle weave in and out of traffic.
She said the vehicle has its hazard lights on, so she initially thought the driver was having car trouble. Then she saw him drive over a median and into another lane.
Corriher said she called 911 to tell dispatchers that someone was driving “all over the lanes” on U.S. 70.
Corriher followed the vehicle as the driver, later identified as Joseph Fruia, turned onto multiple roads, including Hurley School Road, and into oncoming traffic. She said one driver ran his vehicle off the road to avoid being hit by Fruia’s vehicle.
“I told the operator, ‘He’s trying to kill himself or somebody.’ She apologized to me more than once. She said, ‘I’m sorry, all the state troopers were busy.’ They transferred me to the Highway Patrol,” Corriher said.
Corriher said after turning down a number of roads and giving the dispatcher descriptions and the direction of travel for Fruia’s vehicle, the dispatcher hung up.
Rowan County 911 officials say that isn’t quite the way the call ended.
Corriher said the dispatcher repeatedly told her that there was a lack of patrolmen because of a collision on the interstate. The dispatcher said she would contact someone in the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Corriher said.
Communications Director Allen Cress said his department became aware of the situation after someone saw a Facebook post by Corriher describing what happened.
Cress said the management team reviewed the recording and determined that the dispatcher followed protocol by transferring the call to the State Highway Patrol. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with the caller and with the Highway Patrol dispatcher, relaying details from Corriher’s descriptions.
“We are grateful for citizen involvement and interagency partnerships that help us keep our community safe, and we strive to assist in this process to the best of our ability,” Cress said.
Cress said all 911 dispatchers follow a series of scripts that appear on their screens once a key piece of information is entered. They are trained to follow the script and end the call in a certain way. If the caller said he was involved in a crash, the dispatcher would ask a series of questions and, based on the caller’s responses, would provide instructions or tell the caller what action was being taken.
Corriher said she would liked to have known that the dispatcher was sending someone to the area. She said she didn’t know anyone was responding until she saw Sheriff’s Office deputies.
She said she felt compelled to follow the driver in case he crashed into someone, and she would do it again.
When Fruia finally stopped in a gravel parking lot, she called 911 again to report that he was slumped over his wheel and she believed he had overdosed.
She said Fruia eventually got out of his vehicle, then fell into the trunk. Corriher said when officers arrived, she told them who she was and they were polite even when she was overcome with emotion.
She said her first Facebook post may not have conveyed that the operator wasn’t aggressive. She now says the operator didn’t hang up, but that when the call ended she believed that dispatchers stayed on the line until help arrived.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
She said she is not trying to speak negatively about 911 and she’s grateful for the job dispatchers do.
Corriher said she’s satisfied with the response from Rowan County 911 and has apologized if she was mistaken.
Fruia, 22, was charged with resisting an officer; possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver a controlled substance; possession of a controlled substance; possession of drug paraphernalia; and nonsupport of a child.
He remains in the county jail under a $20,880 secured bond.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.