Lost on the Line: 911 is still broken -- and it's costing lives

Can 911 find you in an emergency?

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon when a Gordon County 911 dispatcher received a hang-up call.

More deaths despite year-long investigation

GORDON COUNTY, Ga. -- It was a rainy Saturday afternoon when a Gordon County 911 dispatcher received a hang-up call.

The dispatcher called the number back. The caller said his car was filling up with water.

Then the connection was lost.

With the assistance of the cell phone provider, the dispatcher tried to ping the cell phone used to make the 911 call.

But to the 911 system, the man’s phone was invisible.

The ping indicated the phone was located at Old Rome Dalton Road north of Highway 156 in the woods near chicken houses – more than three miles away from the car’s actual location.

By this point, the man’s car was likely already underwater.

The cell phone provider traced the car to its last known location, which was more than three miles away – and in the opposite direction.

The driver, George Treadaway, was fighting for his life.

Rescuers had two addresses to search for the drowning man.

Both turned out to be wrong.



There was no water on that wooded hill because Treadaway called 911 from the flooded valley three miles away.

"We found out the next day that there had been a 911 call and they had communicated with someone which was him," said Treadaway's son-in-law Ivan Holden.

But somehow, Gordon County dispatchers didn't know one of their own 911 operators had talked with a downing George Treadaway hours earlier.

“He did tell the dispatcher that the car was filling up with water and they could hear that on the 911 tape," Holden said.

Gordon County 911 won't release Treadaway's call because they said he drowned on the phone with the dispatcher. But the county didn't even send anyone out to search the floodwaters for George's sunken car until his family reported him missing nearly five hours later.

"We were very disappointed in the 911 system," Holden said.

Two days later, Treadaway's body was recovered from his car in 12 feet of water at Reeves Station Road. 

George Treadaway was lost on the line.

"I lost her" | 911 Problem remains unsolved

Almost a year to the day before Treadaway's vehicle went missing to 911 dispatchers,  Shanell Anderson made a frantic emergency call. The 31-year-old had accidentally drove into a residential retaining pond 100 yards from the line between Fulton and Cherokee counties. She spent the last moments of consciousness trying to tell dispatchers where she was.

In the agonizing final moments of the call, Anderson's words are muffled by the sounds of the pond filling the interior of the car. The dispatcher asks for the address one more time, and then utters the words, "I lost her."

That incident spurred the 11Alive Investigators to hold the powerful accountable with the Lost on the Line: Why 911 is broken series. Those stories led to a nationwide investigation into the 911 system. 

Some states -- such as Minnesota -- took action after the 911 problems were exposed. 

Georgia was not one of them. 

11Alive Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe showed how Gov. Nathan Deal has done nothing with the eight major recommendations issued by a commission he appointed to help fix problems with 911. READ THE FULL REPORT HERE (.pdf)

Last year, at a press conference, 11Alive Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe asked Deal if he was in favor of the commission's recommendation that there be a state agency that oversees 911.

"Well, I haven't made a decision on that," Deal replied.

Over the course of the last year, the 11Alive Investigators asked the governor and his staff the same questions about his 911 commission report again and again -- nine times via email and in person. (Read the email chain)

After a year of no answers -- and another death -- the Investigators caught up with Gov. Deal at a transportation news conference (WATCH)

11Alive Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe questioned Gov. Nathan over 911.

Gov. Deal walked away from our questions, but we asked his staff why he appeared to be breaking a long-standing Georgia law requiring the governor to appoint 12 members to a permanent 91 advisory committee, and why that state committee hasn't met in years.

Now, after all of the Investigators' questions, the governor is in the process of appointing that committee. The first thing on their agenda: the 911 modernization commission's recommendations. Watch the full report Thursday night at 11 on 11Alive!

After seeing the 11Alive Investigation, one company set out to solve the problem.  The 11Alive Investigators put their invention to the test at the precise locations where George Treadaway and Shannell Anderson called for help.  Watch what happened.

PHOTOS: Man dies after 911 can't find his sinking car

Lost on the Line: An 11Alive Investigation into how 911 is broken:

Why 911 is broken

Lawmakers focused on 911 money, not safety

Minnesota takes action after 11Alive 911 report

Gov. Deal fails to act on 911 commission report

Where is your 911 money going?

Cobb, Gwinnett counties sue telephone companies over 911 fees

Submit your tip to the 11Alive Investigators!




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