In 911 call, frantic social worker fears for Josh Powell’s sons

SEATTLE — A 911 call recording reveals a social worker’s attempts over a more than six-minute call to get a dispatcher to send authorities quickly to the home of Josh Powell after he locked himself and his two sons in the home he then set ablaze.

The social worker seemed to try repeatedly to relay the gravity of what was going on to dispatchers. Josh Powell was scheduled for a supervised visit with his sons Sunday. Authorities said he locked the door, used a hatchet on his kids, and lit the house on fire, killing all inside.

In the first minutes of the 911 call, released late Tuesday, the woman laid out the situation.

“Something really weird has happened. The kids went into the house and the parent — the biological parent — whose name is Josh Powell will not let me in the door. What should I do? … I could hear one of the kids crying, and he still wouldn’t let me in.”

The social worker told the dispatcher she “was one step in back of them (the boys). He shut the door right in my face.”

At one point the dispatcher asked the social worker what address she was at. The social worker didn’t know and needed to look for it. It took her about 1 ½ minutes to find it in her car. At one point she asks, “You can’t find me by GPS?” While she’s still looking for the address she says, “But I think I need help right away.”

The woman also explained that she smelled gasoline, saying four minutes into the call that the boys have been locked in the home for 10 minutes. Authorities later said Josh Powell spread a 5-gallon drum of gasoline around the home to ensure the fire he set burned faster.

After six minutes on the call, a dispatcher says: “We’ll have somebody look for you there.”

“OK, how long will it be?” the woman asks.

“I don’t know, ma’am. We have to respond to emergency life-threatening situations first. The first available deputy …”

The woman responded: “This could be life-threatening … I’m afraid for their lives.”

After the home erupted in flames, the woman screamed in a separate call: “He exploded the house!”

Also Tuesday, authorities released a 911 call Josh Powell’s sister made Sunday, saying she received emails from her brother explaining what to do with his property and saying he couldn’t live without his sons. Alina Powell told a dispatcher she feared her brother was going to do something because of pressure he faced after his wife, Susan, disappeared two years ago. Josh Powell was a “person of interest” in Susan’s Utah disappearance.

Crying, Alina Powell told the dispatcher: “I’m terrified to drive over there. I’m not afraid of him. He’s never hurt me. I’m afraid of seeing something I don’t want to see.”

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