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The WAAY 31 I-TEAM has uncovered brand new information on a deadly boat crash.
The crash on Shoals Creek killed Lauren Cowart and her 5-year-old daughter, Blakely, on June 8th. The WAAY 31 I-TEAM filed an open records request with Lauderdale County 911 to obtain the 911 calls. In the state of Alabama, journalists are only allowed to have the actual 911 transcripts, not the calls.
We asked for the transcripts of that night from the 911 calls.
Alabama's open records law is vague and many times, if a case is "under investigation," open records requests can be or will be denied. However, Lauderdale County EMA and 911 Director, George Grabryan, consulted with their attorneys, and we were allowed to view the 911 call log from the boat crash and take notes on the call log. We were not allowed to take photos of the call log or video it. Grabryan sat in while we viewed the documents and answered any questions we had on the call log.
The call logs were not the verbatim of what the callers said to dispatchers, but rather snippets of what they were saying. Phone numbers were also redacted from the advice of attorneys. The time of the call was listed and what tower the call pinged off on.
In total, there were four 911 calls placed on June 8th about the boat crash.
The first 911 call was placed at 10:48 p.m. on June 8th. The documents said, "Caller claims another boat hit his boat, going about 50 mph. Caller and other occupants were on shore."
The second 911 call was placed at 10:50 and said, "Caller says another boat has hit them head-on. Caller's boat has made it to the marina. Possibly bass boat. Caller states that the other boat kept going."
We don't know who either of those 911 calls came from because of the redactions, but it appears those calls were placed by people on the cruiser.
Clayton Birdyshaw and two of his friends were fishing on Shoals Creek that night. Birdyshaw believes he heard the crash.
"It was a boom or a crash. I thought it was a barge coming by with metal banging on it," said Birdyshaw.
Birdyshaw said he didn't think much of the noise he heard, but he and his buddies decided to try another fishing spot.
"We saw the boat over there without any lights on and slowed down to check on it," said Birdyshaw.
Birdyshaw said they slowed down to see what was going on and that's when they heard Trey's young son asking for help. He was not in the water.
"I was confused and scared because that's not something you hear a lot," said Birdyshaw.
Trey Wooten was driving a small ski boat with his young son, and Lauren and her daughter, Blakely, were on board. On the cruiser was Mark McBryer, his wife, her sister, his son and his son's friend.
Marine police said the boats collided. Birdyshaw and his friends stopped to help. He said Wooten was in bad shape but was conscious and telling him to look for Lauren and Blakely.
"The man in the boat was saying there were two missing in the water, and I found them in the boat and told 911 that," said Birdyshaw.
The next call came at 10:52, and Birdyshaw believes that was his 911 call. Birdyshaw said Wooten could only move his arms. He and his friends began flagging down other boats to help.
Birdyshaw got Wooten's young son who was in the boat and wearing his life vest and took him to the marina to meet an ambulance. Birdyshaw said he can't remember how long he was on the phone with 911, but said it was a while.
"It was rough, but somebody had to stop, and I just happened to be the one that stopped," said Birdyshaw.
The fourth 911 call came in at 11:03 and said, "Greenhill fireman is out in his boat and he is alongside the wrecked boat and he is checking on the occupants."
The Lauderdale County District Attorney's office previously told WAAY 31 the crash happened at approximately 10:30 p.m., but the first 911 call didn't go out until 18 minutes later. We asked the district attorney if it's possible the crash actually happened later than 10:30. He said he would double check the time and get back to us on Wednesday.
A grand jury indicted Wooten on two counts of manslaughter because investigators say his blood alcohol content was 0.121, well above the legal limit of 0.08. The District Attorney's office said McBryer is still being investigated for leaving the scene of an accident. The findings on that part of the case will be presented to a grand jury.
"I hope justice comes from both sides," said Birdyshaw.
The district attorney's office also said McBryer and the people on the cruiser stayed at the marina and were interviewed by Marine police. We have reached out to the McBryer family. They have not returned our calls.
We have also called the Alabama Law Enforcement agency in Montgomery to get the crash report of this incident. They have not given it to us yet.
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