Sheriff releases audio, video of teens' drowning

- Audio and videotapes released by the Pinellas Sheriffs Office reveal one chilling detail in the March 31 triple drowning of three teenaged girls, trapped inside a stolen car.

Nearly nine minutes passed between a sergeant saying over the radio, "OK he's off -road in the water. They're in the water stranded..." and an assessment from a helicopter above: "The vehicle is completely submerged underwater, I don't even have a visual on the car at this point."

Hours later, the stolen Honda was pulled from a pond at the Royal Palm Cemetery North, near Gandy Boulevard and I-275. 

Inside, deputies found the lifeless bodies of 15-year olds Laniya Miller and Ashaunti Butler, and 16-year old Dominique Battle, all from St. Petersburg. 

A deputy tried to stop them on Sunset Point Road near U.S. 19 for driving with no headlights. The sheriffs office said the deputy disengaged when the car ran a red light and accelerated. 

A few miles further south, another deputy spotted the vehicle, ran the tag and discovered the car was stolen, and followed it at a distance. Several cruisers followed the car into the cemetery. 

"Looks like it's going to deadened back in the cemetery," a sergeant radioed. "Let's get me some units up here and get K9s."

The call about the car entering the water came less than two minutes later.

Three minutes after that: "The car's bobbing around, they're trying to crawl out. Looks like somebody at a window. I see a foot coming out."

However, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told FOX 13 News he thinks that observation was mistaken. All of the windows in the vehicle were completely closed when it was pulled from the pond. 

The day of the incident, the sheriff said deputies at the scene thought it took about five minutes for the car to sink into the pond, which is about 15 feet deep.

The audio tape suggests the horrific end took a little bit longer.

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