Nearly 30 minutes of 911 emergency calls released this week detail in real time the drama of last Saturday’s fatal cougar attack in the Cascade Mountain foothills.
The first call for help to the King County Sheriff’s Office, at 10:42 a.m., came from Isaac Sederbaum, a 31-year-old Seattle man, his ear mangled and his head, face and neck bloodied after being jumped by the big cat. Sederbaum had ridden his bicycle down a gravel logging road, looking for cellphone coverage.
The call gets through for a second, just enough to register with the dispatcher, then drops. Five minutes later, Sederbaum tries again. Again, it lasts only a second.
Then, at 10:54, a call lasts long enough for the dispatcher to hear wind in the background and one scream: “Help!” Then that call is also lost.
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Sederbaum had fled down the mountain trying to find help for his riding companion, S.J. Brooks, 32, of Seattle, after the cougar had ended its attack on him and gone after Brooks.
Brooks was found dead beneath a log, dragged there by the cat. First responders said the cat was on Brooks’ body when they arrived. The exact time of the medics’ arrival was not immediately available.
The animal, a 3-year-old male that an official called “emaciated,” was treed and shot by wildlife officers and their dogs. Its carcass was sent to Washington State University for necropsy.
Sederbaum, who underwent surgery for lacerations and wounds to his head and face, was released from Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday.
'Middle of nowhere'
When the injured Sederbaum finally gets through to 911 dispatch Saturday morning, all he knows is that both he and Brooks need help. They are isolated – “kind of in the middle of nowhere,” is how the dispatcher put it – and Sederbaum is scared.
The 911 dispatcher who took the call transfers it to NORCOM, the emergency service for Northeast King County.
“He says him and his friend were attacked by a mountain lion. I’m trying to figure out where they’re at,” one dispatcher tells another on the tape. Another tries to calm the distraught Sederbaum.
“Sir, sir.” She’s calmly emphatic.
Sederbaum, the stress obvious in his voice, replies, “I’m on a logging road north of North Bend.”
Over the next nearly half-hour, dispatchers repeatedly try to establish Sederbaum’s whereabouts, first by asking him to search for landmarks or signs, then by attempting to obtain a GPS location by pinging his cellphone.
Help first arrives in the form of a couple in a vehicle that Sederbaum flags down.
“Can you talk to 911?” Sederbaum can be heard asking them on the 911 recording. “I got attacked by a mountain lion. My friend is up there …”
A few seconds later, a woman comes on the line. The dispatcher keeps trying to figure out where to send the medics. It’s not easy.
“Do you know North Bend at all?” the woman says. “I’m trying to get it on map. Hold on.”
She says, “We just came upon him on the road. So can you send someone out?”
The dispatcher says, “Ma’am, help has already been sent. We’re just trying to tell them how to get there the quickest way.”
A truck arrives – this one with a man named Matt and his companion, Meaghan, who he says is a registered nurse. They stop to help Sederbaum. Matt and the dispatcher pick up the conversation.
“Any buildings or landmarks?” she asks.
“No,” answers Matt. “We’re out in the forest.”
Looking for details
The dispatcher asks about Sederbaum, whose raised voice can be heard in the background.
“He’s conscious. He has pretty serious lacerations on his face and head. He’s covered in blood,” Matt tells the dispatcher. “He says he has a friend who may be seriously hurt” back down the road, maybe five miles.
“He’s scared and wants to get out of the mountains,” Matt says. He can be heard telling Sederbaum, “Just chill out, buddy,” as he and the dispatcher attempt to establish the GPS location via cellphone.
The dispatcher tells Matt to control any bleeding with a towel or shirt, and to keep pressure on the wound.
“He’s not got a lot of bleeding … right now he’s starting to feel some. I think the adrenaline is starting to wear off,” says Matt.
He tells Sederbaum, “They’re sending someone, Isaac. They’re having a hard time figuring out where we are.”
When another car comes by, Matt and Meaghan decide they will take their truck up the road to look for the missing man. There is some confusion at first, but once the King County Sheriff’s Office figures out what Matt is intending, he is waved off.
“Go to a safe place,” the dispatcher tells him. “We have trained professionals looking for them … Don’t put yourself in jeopardy … We don’t want to have a third or fourth patient. We do appreciate your gesture …”
Meantime, the dispatcher is talking to Sederbaum as he and the passers-by wait for deputies and an aid car. “How are you doing?” she asks.
He sounds distressed.
“I need an ambulance,” he says. “I’m so worried about my friend.”