For 26 Minutes This Dispatcher Stayed on the Phone as Group’s Raft Sank in the Mokelumne River

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY — In an emergency, when every minute could be the difference between life and death, a dispatcher’s voice is the first thing many people hear.

Four-year San Joaquin County sheriff’s dispatcher Matthew Sieperda was on the other end of a call from the Mokelumne River, remaining calm in the chaos.

“See what their needs are, what they need from me in order to reassure them that we’re getting help to them and that I’m here to help,” Sieperda said.

A raft with three women on board was taking on water.

People out enjoying the water Thursday said the river can be dangerous.

“The water is deep and it’s also can be rushing in the middle out there,” said Michael Walton. “So, you definitely want to be very careful and respect the water.”

The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office shared part of the water rescue call from Wednesday with FOX40.

“Speak just a little bit slower and tell me exactly what’s going on so I can send you the help,” Sieperda can be heard saying.

“We’re sinking in the mud right now,” the caller said.

“You’re sinking in the mud? You’re on the Mokelumne River, where at?” Sieperda responded.

Battling poor reception and dropped calls, as well as a race against time, the callers called back on a different phone.

“I was able to use different programs that we have in order to pinpoint that location because it was a better connection,” Sieperda told FOX40. “I was able to hear them and then when I was talking to them on that call, I was able to hear the sirens from our deputies to know that they were close to where they were.”

It was a 26-minute call but first responders were able to rescue all three rafters from the water.

“I feel really good about it,” Sieperda said. “Whenever anything has a happy ending like especially this situation where we were able to get the help out to them quickly and everything worked out. I mean, it’s what we strive for in every single call.”


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