Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle speaks during ...
No bid to edit out 2nd rider, captain says
State police, Ozark couple recount Petrino accident
Tyler Grant, a freshman at the University of Arkansas, joins fans in a Hog call during a rally Monday in support of head football coach Bobby Petrino at The Gardens on the Fayetteville campus.
LITTLE ROCK Razorbacks head football coach Bobby Petrino asked a state police captain April 2 if he would be required to identify Petrino’s passenger in a motorcycle accident the coach had had the previous day, according to a statement state police released Monday.
Capt. Lance King told Petrino by phone that “we had been getting phone calls from people who had said there was a passenger on the rear of the motorcycle” and if he didn’t identify her, the accident report would say “unidentified white female.”
“I didn’t ask him the name and he didn’t ask me to keep her name off the report,” King wrote in his statement, released just after5 p.m. Monday.
University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long placed Petrino, 51, on administrative leave Thursday, hours after learning that Petrino lied when he said he was alone April 1 when he crashed his Harley Davidson on Arkansas 16 near Crosses in rural Madison County.
A state police report issued Thursday afternoon said the passenger was Jessica Dorrell, 25, who was hired March 28 as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator. The report included statements from Dorrell and Petrino, who both were interviewed by Sgt. Gabe Weaver and Trooper Josh Arnold on April 3, immediately after a news conference in which Petrino said he was alone.
Petrino did not tell UA officials about Dorrell’s involvement in the accident until Thursday afternoon, minutes before the release of the Arkansas State Police accident report.
In a statement later Thursday, Petrino said, “My concern was to protect my family and a previous inappropriate relationship from becoming public.”
King drove Petrino to Physicians Specialty Hospital in Fayetteville for treatment after he was dropped off by a woman from Ozark who drove him from the accident scene to Fayetteville.
State police spokesman Bill Sadler said King was not the subject of an internal investigation regarding his actions in helping Petrino after the accident. The agency had King’s summary prepared “as a means to be responsive to questions raised by representatives of the public,” said a news release that accompanied that statement Monday.
King said in closing his statement that he made no attempt to help Petrino conceal Dorrell’s presence.
“At no time did I fail to provide information to my supervisor or involve myself in the accident investigation. I do not know Jessica Dorrell and I have never met her. Coach Petrino and I did not discuss any passenger information during transport to the hospital or otherwise. I have a professional relationship with Coach Petrino and have never met with him or his family socially.”
King provides security for Petrino during football games, both home and away.
The release said King’s statement would be provided to Long, who wrapped up his fourth full day of a review into Petrino’s actions Monday with no defined completion date.
Long met Monday with Benjamin Williams and Jody Stewart, the Ozark couple who happened upon the accident while driving to Fayetteville on Arkansas 16, Williams confirmed. Stewart and Williams drove Petrino and Dorrell from the accident scene toward Fayetteville, where Petrino was transferred into an unmarked state police car driven by King.
Williams said Long’s questions Monday focused on whether anyone asked him to conceal what he knew.
“We told them everything that happened on that day,” Williams said. “Their main concern was if somebody asked me to keep this a hush hush deal. ... Nobody asked me to keep my mouth shut.”
An athletic department spokesman said Monday that he did not expect Long to address media inquiries until the review is finished. In a news conference Thursday, Long said he expected to act “very expeditiously.”
UA Chancellor David Gearhart has declined interview requests. UA System President Donald Bobbitt said he would leave the matter to Gearhart and Long.
“I have full confidence that they are conducting a thorough review of this matter and will make the right decision for the University of Arkansas,”he said in a statement.
Petrino’s attorney, Russ Campbell of Birmingham, Ala., said his client is cooperating with Long’s review.
“The university’s investigation is ongoing and Coach Petrino is cooperating fully. For now, it is in their hands,” Campbell said by text message.
CALL FROM PETRINO
King’s account said he initially learned about Petrino’s accident from Weaver, who called King’s cell phone to tell him a motorcycle involved in an accident on Arkansas 16 was registered to Petrino.Weaver told King that the rider “had departed the scene in a private vehicle en route to the hospital.”
King said he called Petrino’s cell phone, got no answer and left a message. Minutes later, he said he received a call back on Petrino’s phone from an “unidentified female” who asked if King could meet them at a parking lot to take Petrino to the hospital and King agreed. She said that Petrino was hurt.
King said he contacted his supervisor, Maj. Les Braunns, and informed him of the situation. He said throughout the statement that he updated Braunns by phone numerous times in the days after the accident.
On the way to Fayetteville, Williams became sick and asked to be dropped off in Elkins. Stewart continued driving Petrino north to the parking lot at Arkansas 16 and Crossover Road in Fayetteville, where they met King.
King said that when he drove up, he saw a woman helping Petrino out of a white SUV. Stewart said in an interview Monday that it was her, and not Dorrell, who helped Petrino from the SUV and into King’s unmarked car.
Petrino was hardly able to speak, was groaning, and was covered with scrapes and blood and complaining of pain in his neck, King’s account said.
Before leaving, King said he gave his cell phone number to the woman [Stewart] and told her she should call the next day.
“I had never seen this person in my life,” King’s account said.
Once in the car, King told Petrino they were headed to Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville “and he told me that was not where he needed to go.” Petrino told King he wanted to go to Physicians Specialty Hospital because Dr. Chris Arnold was meeting him there, and he gave directions to King, who wrote that he was not familiar with the hospital.
King said he and Petrino didn’t talk much on the way. “He said nothing about the accident except that a gust of wind blew him off the road. ... He kept saying he thought he had a broken neck.”
News accounts have said Petrino sustained four broken ribs, a cracked C2 vertebrae, cuts and bruises.
When King and Petrino arrived at the hospital, Petrino’s wife, Becky, called, and Petrino handed the phone to King, who told her that he had been injured.
“I told her that she needed to get down there,” King’s account said.
During one of two visits to the hospital that night, Becky Petrino asked if King could get the names of the people who drove Petrino from the accident.
“She asked me to get their names, so she could thank them for their help,” King’s account said.
The next day, April 2, King said, he received a call from Williams identifying himself as the person who transported Petrino from the scene. King said Williams told him he hoped Petrino and his “lady friend” were OK. King said he told Williams that a trooper would contact him and that the Petrino family wanted his name so they could “do something nice for them.” He suggested that Petrino might send “some Razorback stuff.”
King said that he didn’t ask Williams anything about the “lady friend” because he knew Williams would be interviewed later.
Williams and Stewart gave their first detailed account of the accident aftermath Monday in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
When they drove up to the scene, they saw the man they later learned was Petrino struggling to get out of a ravine.
“He was up and down and he’d had a blow to the head. There was a lot of blood,” Williams said.
Both said they had no idea at the time that the bloody man they put into their SUV was Petrino.
Williams said he told Stewart to call 911, but Petrino declined.
“It kind of made sense to me,” Williams said. “It would take triple the time for a rescue truck to get there. It made sense for us to get in our car and take them to Fayetteville.
”The woman, Dorrell, was only slightly injured, limping as she walked, he said.
Dorrell got in the back seat with Petrino, Stewart drove, and Williams took the passenger seat. Soon, Williams said, Petrino made a cell-phone call. The couple didn’t know who Petrino called, but he told them he had a friend who was a state trooper who would meet them and take them to the hospital.
Williams felt sick from seeing blood and asked to be let out of the car, while Stewart continued driving.
After Stewart pulled into a parking lot at the intersection of Arkansas 16 and Crossover Road in Fayetteville, Dorrell called and told someone they had arrived, the couple said. Soon, Stewart said, a man drove up in an unmarked state police car.
About that time, the woman in the back seat got out of the SUV and started limping across the parking lot.
“Jody’s asking, ‘Are you OK?’” Williams recounted. It looked as if she had a sprained ankle, Williams said. The woman responded, ‘No I'm fine. Don’t worry about me.’”
King’s account didn’t directly address whether he saw Dorrell get out of the SUV and into her own car.
Stewart said that after Petrino got into the unmarked car, the trooper turned on the siren and blue lights and headed away.
The next day, Stewart’s mother called because she’d heard news of Petrino’s wreck. “She asked, ‘Jody, do you know who you picked up? It’s Coach Bobby Petrino,’” Williams said.
Williams told Stewart they needed to call the trooper, and he found a number. When he reached King, he said King told him Petrino appreciated what they had done.
King took Williams’ address and later April 2, a trooper appeared at the couple’s door in Ozark to take statements about the wreck.
After the state police report of the accident was released Thursday, media gathered at the couple’s home. The response was overwhelming.
“The [media] were there for the nastiest, stinking story,” Williams said. “People were in my yard, my landlord and in-laws were being harassed. I live in a small town, I work for my dad. I keep life simple. I stopped and picked this man up and had no idea this would happen.”
When asked by news reporters Thursday night whether they had a woman in the car with Petrino, Williams and Stewart denied it. Williams said he and Stewart decided that night it was not their place to talk about her.
“If people want to know, ask him,” Williams said Monday. “It’s not my place to tell about his personal life.”
Williams and Stewart stressed that they were never asked to keep anything quiet regarding the motorcycle accident.
“I never had one idea in my mind that something was trying to be hidden, that they were hiding anything,” Williams said. “Nothing at all like that was said.”
Williams said he told the truth to state police and stands by his statement, despite his sympathy for Petrino’s trouble.
“I’m rooting for this coach. That’s Coach Petrino. I love the Razorbacks. But I’m not going to perjure myself or make a false report to help him,” Williams said.
King’s account said state police had no indication that Petrino had been drinking or was intoxicated after the accident.
“He did not smell of alcoholic beverages,” King wrote.
In his report, King expressed concern that moving Petrino could have contributed to his injuries.
“I told Dr. [Chris] Arnold that I hope I didn’t cause any further injury by transporting Coach Petrino myself and not calling an ambulance. I told him that I felt that time was an issue and he said that he thought I had done the right thing.”
After Petrino made his statement to state police investigators April 3, King asked for permission to call the coach, and Braunns agreed, King’s account said. King said he spoke with Petrino about 7:15 p.m. and thanked him for his cooperation and told him the crash report would be forthcoming.
King said his last conversation with Petrino was 2:50 p.m. Thursday to let him know the accident report would be released.
Sadler said previously that King isn’t compensated separately for his duties providing Petrino’s game day security. However, he said he was still reviewing Monday whether King receives any gratuities for providing Petrino’s security.
Sadler has said UA pays King’s travel expenses.
Information for this article was contributed by Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Front Section, Pages 1 on 04/10/2012