A Maryland-based emergency service dispatcher was placed on administrative leave with pay after he fell asleep while on duty and began snoring during an emergency call.

A women who phoned 911 after her husband suddenly stopped breathing was transferred to the dispatcher, but her repeated cries of "hello" could not rouse him. A second dispatcher came online and guided the woman through opening an airway for her suffocating spouse, all while the first dispatcher remained on the call, snoring away.

He finally came to six minutes later, completely oblivious to the fact that a call was already in progress. "What's the address?" the dispatcher kept repeating as the woman on the other end began to sob.

The husband was eventually taken to the hospital, and was not adversely affected "as a result of the call."

According to Montgomery County Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham, the unnamed man was on hour 17 of a 24-hour overtime shift.

Despite the harrowing ordeal, local union rep Jeffrey Buddle defended the 24-hour shift, telling NBC Washington that, while it "may seem like a long shift to someone who's not used to that schedule, it's something that's just normal for a firefighter to work."

An inquiry into the incident remains pending.

[video via NBC News 4]