911 dispatcher on Powell call: Case a 'nightmare'

911 dispatcher on Powell call: Case a 'nightmare' »Play Video
Flames pour from the home of Josh Powell after the Sunday afternoon explosion. (Photo courtesy of Josh Starkey)
SEATTLE - The dispatcher who took a much-criticized 911 call from a social worker trying to alert authorities to danger at Josh Powell's house before he killed himself and his children says the case has been "a nightmare."

The dispatcher says in an interview with "Dateline NBC" airing Friday that he didn't realize who the social worker was talking about when she mentioned Powell's name. Powell was a person of interest in his wife's 2009 Utah disappearance and had lost custody of his two sons.

On Sunday, Powell grabbed his boys during a supervised visit, locked the door and killed them by attacking them with a hatchet and setting his house on fire.

In the 911 call, the dispatcher asks the social worker seemingly unrelated questions and tells her deputies have to respond to "life threatening" situations first.

In the more than six-minute phone call, the social worker seemed to try repeatedly to relay the gravity of what was going on to dispatchers.

In the first minutes of the 911 call, the woman laid out the situation briefly, then asked, "What should I do? ... Nothing like this has ever happened before at these visitations ... I could hear one of the kids crying, and he still wouldn't let me in."

The dispatcher at one point asked the social worker what address she was at. The social worker didn't know and needed to look for it. It took her about 1 ½ minutes to find it in her car. At one point she asks, "You can't find me by GPS?" While she's still looking for the address she says, "But I think I need help right away."

The woman also explained that she smelled gasoline, saying four-minutes into the call that the boys have been locked in the home for 10 minutes.

After six minutes on the call, a dispatcher says: "We'll have somebody look for you there."

"OK, how long will it be?" the woman asks.

"I don't know ma'am. We have to respond to emergency life threatening situations first. The first available deputy."

The woman responded: "This could be life-threatening ... I'm afraid for their lives."

After the home erupted in flames, the woman screamed in a separate call: "He exploded the house!"