Police crash analysis ‘flawed’, court told

Fatal smash: Ladies Mile on July 31 last year PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

A private crash investigator says police analysis of a fatal smash on Ladies Mile last year contains “significant flaws”.

Tim Stevenson gave evidence on the second day of the judge-alone trial of former Queenstown man Isaac David Madsen, 19, in Queenstown’s court yesterday.

Madsen is charged with careless driving causing the death of Cromwell woman Jennifer Claire Scott, 76, on July 31 last year.

The police case is that Madsen crossed the centreline into the opposite lane – either through distraction or fatigue – and collided head-on with Scott’s car near the intersection with Howards Drive.

Stevenson says a report by Alexandra-based police serious crash unit investigator Senior Constable Alastair Crosland is “significantly flawed”, particularly in the case of two technical analyses that had resulted in the over-estimation of both cars’ travelling speeds.

Tuesday’s hearing revealed two fellow serious crash unit investigators expressed reservations about Crosland’s report.

Stevenson said yesterday the crash could have been caused by “snaking” – or what he prefers to call “synchronous weaving”.

It describes a situation where two people inadvertently steered towards each other while attempting to avoid each other.

Stevenson: “It happens in supermarket aisles – obviously at much slower speeds.”

The court heard that at the time of the crash, Madsen was returning to his home in Lower Shotover Rd after spending the day snowboarding at the Cardrona ski area.

He was driving his flatmate’s car because his own vehicle had been damaged in a crash on the Cardrona access road 10 days earlier.

Detective Grant Miller, of Queenstown CIB, says there’s no evidence Madsen had been using his cellphone in the moments before the crash, or that he had drugs or alcohol in his system.

The day began with Crosland returning to the witness stand. Under cross-examination by defence counsel Miles Beresford, he accepted the speed at which the defendant’s car moved over the centreline and into the opposite lane – 2.7 metres in an estimated 1.5 seconds indicated an abrupt “swerve” rather than the “drift” described by a key witness on Tuesday.

But he disagreed with the analysis used by Stevenson to support the swerve scenario.

The software program used can’t give a dependable result in this case as there are too many variables, he says.

When asked by Judge Mark Callaghan about the significance of the angle of the front wheels of the two cars after the crash, Crosland says the fact they were straight indicated there had been minimal, if any, steering input from either driver before impact.

Madsen will not be giving evidence at the trial, which resumes on Friday.

Otago Daily Times