Recordings shed light in case of teens who died when stolen car plunged into pond

Battle, left, Miller, center, Butler, right.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Dash-cam video has just been released in a case where three teenage girls in a stolen car took a deadly plunge in a Pinellas County pond.

News Channel 8 obtained copies of all the audio and video recordings from March 31. You can see and hear the intense moments and emotions from law enforcement that lead up to the graphic discovery. Deputies were racing to the scene that fateful morning around 4, hearing that a car plunged into a pond. When they got there, the girls were inside.

The video gives a point-of-view perspective inside multiple Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars at the exact moment deputies found out that a car was in a pond near a cemetery off I-275.

Those deputies can be seen using flashlights to locate any signs of life. You can also hear them planning their next move. However, within minutes, things take a turn for the worse. Members of law enforcement make a grim observation.

They see someone inside the car. In fact, deputies can be heard on an audio recording talking about the car “bobbing around,” with “a foot” visible. K-9 officers arrive shortly thereafter, ready to search for victims. They, too, encounter a grisly scene.

According to newly released documents, once the deputies realize people are inside the car, they took off their “duty gear and entered the water. It was sick with foliage and natural debris. The muddy and swamp-like conditions made it extremely difficult and hazardous. The vehicle sink to the bottom, and visual was lost.”

A sheriff’s office helicopter was above the accident scene, with a bird’s-eye view, making observations to the deputies below. The crew in the helicopter can be heard telling deputies on the ground, “There is something just to the right of the vehicle. But, I can’t, I don’t see anybody swimming away.”

The three teenage girls died inside the car that morning. Dominique Battle, Laniya Miller and Ashaunti Butler all had criminal records, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. They were driving a stolen car at the time of their deaths, the sheriff said. Alcohol was also found inside the car, according to the newly released documents.

Sheriff Gualtieri maintains he released the numerous documents to be transparent and show the public exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, News Channel 8 reached out to the families of Miller and Battle. Family members have the victims have previously questioned the sheriff’s office and its handling of the case.

Relatives have hired attorneys. Although the lawyers had not seen these newest documents, one of them offered a brief comment.

“We have a lot of questions. We don’t want to accuse anyone. We want as much as information as possible and as soon as possible. We’re going to continue with our own investigation,” attorney Will Anderson said.

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