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911 call about plane crash turns out to be sleeping pill-fueled hallucination

911 call about plane crash turns out to be sleeping pill-fueled hallucination (KOMO File photo)

ENTON, Wash. (KOMO)-- An alarming 911 call about a plane crash ended up being a bad dream -- quite literally.

A disoriented man said he had taken the popular prescribed drug Ambien before making that call for help.

The 75-year-old man called dispatch at 2 a.m. on May 12 to say he had been in a plane crash. He said the small cargo plane was headed from Renton to Oregon when it went down.

The 911 recorded call included the following conversation:

Operator: Are you able to safely get out?
Caller: No. I'm pinned in.
Operator: Did it hit any buildings or just into the trees?
Caller: In the trees. In the field with trees.
The caller said he was in the plane with three other people who were not conscious.
Operator: Are you able to look out the window? Are you able to see for the wing where you are at?
Caller: No, I can't see anything.

It turns out that the man imagined the entire thing after taking Ambien before bed.

The 911 caller did not want to talk on camera, but he did say how concerned he is about the side effects of Ambien. He said he only took half a pill because he couldn't sleep after having surgery.

Dr. Gandis Mazeika is a sleep expert with Sound Sleep Health.

"It must have seem really real to him for him to call 911. It must have been like a real hallucination for him and that does speak to some of the potency of Ambien," said Dr. Mazeika.

Mazeika said Ambien is one of the most popular prescribed drugs in the U.S. he said it's safe but, there are times where it can cause problems.

"It can cause people to have this kind of disorientation if given inappropriately to a patient or if the dosage is too high," said Mazeika.

Mazeika said the Renton man could have started hallucinating or having adverse side effects in there were still other drugs in man's system from his surgery. In any case, he said people should only take Ambien if it's prescribed to them by a doctor.

"By and large, if a person is taking it and they have no symptoms taking it, this should not be a warning to stop taking it," said Mazeika.

Sleep experts say if you take Ambien and you're concerned about your state of mind, do some simple puzzles --a Sudoku or a crossword to see if you can function.

Experts also say people who are new to the prescribed drug should start taking it on a weekend first before using it on a work day.

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