FWPD use cellphone technology to save suicidal woman from river

Local News

Using tech to save lives. That’s what the Fort Wayne Police Department did Tuesday morning. They used cell phone technology to save a suicidal woman from the St. Marys River.

The woman sat on the banks ready to end her life. If police didn’t have access to the cell phone tech, they may have found her too late.

Fort Wayne-Allen County Dispatcher Michelle Pongratz said they simply find out the subject’s cell phone provider and ask them to pinpoint the subject’s cell phone. Moments later, they’re given a latitude and longitude of where the phone is. Dispatchers then pass the information on to emergency responders. 

They use this pinging technology almost daily, but only in last effort, life-or-death situations. Seventy-Five percent of the time, the tech is used for suicide threats.

“With helping someone who is in need, someone who’s making threats of suicide or to harm themselves or someone else, it’s crucial to get people there to help them get the help that they need, help them stop the situation from happening,” Pongratz said.

Tuesday morning, Fort Wayne police got word of a suicidal woman who posted about her intent on Facebook Live. When they couldn’t find her, they called dispatch and asked them to ping her cell phone.

After a dispatcher got the location from the woman’s cell phone provider, he directed emergency responders to intersection of Thieme Drive and West Berry Street, on the west side of downtown Fort Wayne by the St. Marys River. 

The woman was taken out of the water. Responders put her in an ambulance. Her condition is unknown.

Pongratz said more often than not, they successfully reached the pinged subjects in time.

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