Unanswered 911 call spawns disbelief, tests
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
At about 11 a.m. on Oct. 27, Luanne Evans smelled gas while she was
working as a house cleaner at 101 Sunrise Dr. in Elkhorn. She knew that a tree-removal
truck working outside the house had inadvertently cut a gas line. When the smell got bad
enough, she said in a written police statement, she dialed 911 from her cell phone.
Evans, 61, said she hung up after six or seven rings, and then, the gas
smell getting worse, she dialed 911 again about 20 minutes later. The phone rang three or
four times, she said, before a gas company technician knocked on the door and she again
Evans said she stopped trying to call 911 because the gas man told her
"everything would be okay."
Less than 15 minutes later, the house next door exploded, severely
injuring the gas man and causing an estimated $1.6 million dollars in damage.
Representatives from Blaine County and Ketchum emergency services
dispatches deny ever receiving a call from Evans, and log books from that day confirm
Both dispatches, however, were flooded with calls around 11:30 a.m.,
just after the home exploded.
Representatives from U.S. Cellular, the cell phone service Evans
subscribes to, and Ketchum dispatch supervisor Ruth Maxwell say a 911 call dialed from a
cell phone in Sunrise would have been picked up by a cellular tower located near the top
of Dollar Mountain, and then relayed to Ketchum dispatch.
"The only thing I can think of," Maxwell said, "is that
perhaps she misdialed."
Maxwell said she was working in the dispatch room that day with one
other person and that one of them was in the room at all times.
Maxwell said there are at least two pieces of electronic equipment in
the dispatch room that would have recorded the call, whether it was answered or not.
Given there were no other emergency calls at the time, Maxwell said,
Evans call would have been answered before the second ring.
Evans, however, who gets her cellular service from a U.S. Cellular
office in Twin Falls, said, "I wasnt so excited that I didnt know what I
was dialingbecause nothing had happened yet."
Evans said she has dialed 911 from the cell phone four or five times in
the past and never had a problem connecting.
On Monday, Paul Lubbee, network operations manager for U.S. Cellular,
said his company has a record of Evans cell phone activity that day, including any
calls that were placed but not answered. However, he said, that information is "not
something we can give out," because "it gets into legal issues."
Monday afternoon, after the Idaho Mountain Express talked to
Lubbee, a U.S. Cellular technician conducted a test of the 911 system from the explosion
site without experiencing any problems, according to Maxwell.
Maxwell said U.S. West, the telephone company that provides traditional
land-line service, also has no record of Evans placing the 911 call. That news
isolates the problem to either the U.S. Cellular system or to Evans use of the
Both Evans and Maxwell said they are willing to conduct another test
using Evans personal cell phone.
Whether U.S. Cellular will release the records of Evans cell
phone activity on Oct. 27 is up to the companys legal department in Chicago.