Every expert has one story that stands out
Whenever someone first meets one of our engineers, they are inevitably asked, “what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?” and, while we obviously won’t share details, every engineer has a story! We chatted with three of our senior collision reconstruction engineers, Dave Little, P.Eng., from our Vancouver office, Mike Peck, P.Eng., from Calgary and Dave Porter, P.Eng., from Toronto, to ask them about the memorable files they’ve encountered throughout the years:
The Case of the Unidentified Driver
The first case is one that could have been in a CSI TV show: a drug runner had rented a car and was involved in a head on collision. The vehicle was severely damaged in the collision, and burned almost completely… The police had a suspect but had not yet confirmed the identity of the driver. When our engineer began the examination of the car, he needed to dig through the burnt debris to locate the ACM (AKA the black box of the vehicle). ACMs are often found in common spots, such as under the dash, or the driver’s seat of a vehicle, and the manufacturer’s specs usually give a good indication of where it should be, but when a car is nearly all ashes, it can be more difficult to find. While he was sifting through debris, he came across a partially burned passport! That evidence helped the Police to confirm the identity of the driver.
The Case of the Engineer vs. Everyone
Another case that came to mind for our engineers was one involving a bus. While the circumstances weren’t as dramatic as the previous example, the compiled evidence was! In this case, a bus was travelling through a busy intersection, where it collided with a left turning truck. There were multiple conflicting witness statements (as often happens) and no EDR (event data recorder) evidence available, but there were some traffic signal timing reports that were acquired. This particular intersection had a green arrow lasting between 7-15 seconds, that would have allowed the truck to turn left safely. This might sound like a no-brainer, obviously the bus was at fault, right? The other experts thought the bus had a red light and the truck had an advanced turning arrow. So, what really happened? There was a CCTV video from a nearby business that showed the collision, but not the actual color of the traffic lights. Going up against multiple opposing experts, and even some police opinions, our expert was able to determine that the bus entered the intersection on a green light, not red. Although the video was a bit grainy and only recorded at 1 frame per second, traffic movements leading up to the collision, combined with the traffic signal timing information, indicated that the traffic light had to have been green for the bus! This made a huge impact in the case, as those extra steps provided evidence that it was the actions of other drivers that caused the incident!
The Case of the Unexpected Visitor
And last but certainly not least – a case of an unexpected visitor. Our engineer was conducting a visibility study on the side of a major road; the road had been closed with the help of police, and he was sitting in his vehicle with the windows down in order to communicate with the study participants in other vehicles and on bicycles. It was around 2 am, and after starting some dictation of notes, the back of his neck began to prickle with the feeling of being watched… When he turned his head, a scruffy gentleman had his entire head and torso through the passenger window and was staring at him! Apparently, he was upset that the road had been closed down for the testing. Needless to say, our engineer had quite a scare, but he managed to convince the stranger to move along, and learned a valuable lesson: don’t leave your windows open late at night!
From riding in Air One, and shutting down bridges to do surveys, to digging through debris, examining vehicles covered in mayonnaise and doing late night scene exams, our collision reconstructionists have seen some unique incidents! These were just a few of the bizarre projects they’ve been involved with throughout the years.