The dispatch received at 12:45 a.m. Monday by Peabody ambulance, fire, rescue, police, and sheriff’s deputies was urgent.
A female motorist had called 911 to report that she was pinned in a rolled-over vehicle in a ditch along US-50 somewhere between Walton and Peabody.
Harvey County sheriff’s office was requesting additional help for deputies, Newton police, fire, EMS, and Walton fire and first responders, who had already searched to within a mile of Peabody with no luck. A Lifeteam helicopter had joined the search.
The woman reported she could hear sirens, dispatchers said, but could not see any rescue vehicles.
Peabody and county units raced west, quickly blending in with other responders and driving slowly along highway shoulders, intersections, and side roads, piercing the dark with searchlights.
About a half hour after they joined the search, it was called off. The woman had been found, far away from any ditch or danger.
“She had not rolled her vehicle, she was not trapped in a vehicle, she was not even in Harvey County,” Harvey County sheriff Chad Gay said. “She was found in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Wichita by a Wichita police officer near 53rd and Meridian Sts.”
Gay said one of his deputies counted at least 20 vehicles that were involved in the bogus search.
While it wasn’t in his deputy’s report, Gay speculated that the original 911 call could have been received in Sedgwick County, since the call originated in Wichita, and that Sedgwick County dispatchers likely contacted his department to initiate the search.
An exchange between Harvey County and Wichita officers led to the woman being apprehended.
“I don’t know what prompted our dispatchers to call Sedgwick County back, but they did,” Gay said. “Our officer here called a Wichita Police Department officer, who made contact with her. She admitted she knew she was making a false report.”
Harvey County deputies took custody of the woman at a county line rendezvous.
“We arrested her and charged her with making a false report and put her in our county jail,” Gay said.
Gay did not know what might have motivated the woman to stage the hoax.