Order sought to block release of fatal Bricktown Canal accident video
An attorney is seeking a court order to block the city of Oklahoma City from releasing video of a fatal accident last fall on the Bricktown Canal.
The city planned to release the video Wednesday.
"Due to the legal matter that must be ruled upon by a judge, the city will not be producing the video tomorrow," Amanda Carpenter, an attorney in the Municipal Counselor's office, said Tuesday afternoon.
Wesley Seeley, 23, died Sept. 30 after falling into the Bricktown Canal and touching wires from a broken light fixture.
The video could show how the light fixture was broken.
Claims have been filed against the city of Oklahoma City on behalf of Seeley's estate and on behalf of a would-be rescuer, who was injured, and the would-be rescuer's wife.
The Oklahoma City Council met privately, in executive session, to discuss the claims. Council members have not seen the video but are "aware of the facts related to the claims," Carpenter said.
In the action filed Tuesday against the city of Oklahoma City, attorney Lane Neal said the video of the canal accident "depicts sensitive events that should not be disseminated to the public."
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Neal said the privacy rights of Seeley's mother, Ginger Hinshaw, and her family "substantially outweigh" the public's interest in the video.
In his court filing, Neal asks that the video be sealed.
Neal said Oklahoma City police obtained the video during their investigation of Wesley Seeley's death.
The Oklahoman requested a copy of the video under provisions of Oklahoma's government Open Records Act.
"The decision will come down to what the judge thinks is more important — the family's privacy or the public's interest in access to the video," said Joey Senat, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University and an expert on the Open Records Act.
"My understanding is that the video is crucial evidence in a possible lawsuit against the city," Senat said. "But the judge could find that the family has a compelling interest in not having the public see that video.
"It's not an easy decision."
Senat said the judge may be influenced by what the video actually shows and the quality of the video.
Part of the video could also be released. “Perhaps the judge would order the video released but with parts obscured,” he said. “That is allowed with the release of police dash and body camera videos.”