A sad fact of modern life are the occurrences of motor vehicle accidents ("crashes"). Furthermore, some major accidents require the expertise of a specially trained Crash Reconstructionist in order to ensure a complete, comprehensive documentation of facts and circumstances relevant to the traffic crash.
The South Bend Police Department (SBPD) currently has five certified Crash Reconstructionists:
Lt. Steve Goen (Traffic Unit Commander), Sgt Gene Eyster, Sgt Bill Kraus, Cpl Edward Koczan, Cpl Jason Biggs, and Cpl Erik Schlegelmilch.
Crash Reconstruction Diagrammers: Cpl Chris Bortone, Cpl Marty Mullins, Ptl Michael Stuk and Ptl Anthony Dawson assist with this on-call unit at scenes also.
Activation Although a supervisor may elect to deploy an Crash Reconstructionist to any serious accident scene, SBPD does have standard procedures regarding the activation such as those incidents involving fatalities, serious and/or long-term injuries, serious property damage, physical evidence collection/investigation. Alcohol related Fatal or SBI crashes are handled by the county wide Fatal Alcohol Crash Team (FACT) of which several members of the Crash Unit are assigned.
In short, Crash Reconstructionists conduct technical investigations of motor vehicle accidents deemed to be of a serious nature, involving Hit & Run crashes, or crashes involving Fatalites, or Serious Body Injury (SBI) crashes. The type of investigation a Reconstructionist might conduct would depend on the details of each specific accident. Some of the investigative techniques include the collection of evidence (skid/gouge marks, paint transfer), lamp and bulb examination, skid and gouge mark analysis, scene photography, and personal data from persons involved (driver/passenger/vehicle information).
With many modern vehicles, crash data analysis including a vehicles "black box" may be downloaded to assist with additional traffic forensic information by investigating officers.
The Crash Reconstructionist then collates this data in the form of accident reports and scaled diagrams, thereby "reconstructing" the entire episode. The department uses advanced diagramming technology including Nikon Laser Total Stations, Measuring Lasers, and both Crash Zone and Vista FX Crash Software to accurately mark, measure, and diagram the scene when needed, including 2D and even to reconstuct a crash in animated 3D capability.
Selection and Training Typically, any SBPD Officer may apply for certification as an Crash Reconstructionist by making a request, in writing, to attend the various schools that are offered throughout the year. Once selected to become an Crash Reconstructionist, the Officer might initially attend the following schools (and respective topics):
AT SCENE COLLISION INVESTIGATION - 40 HOURS - which includes Scale Diagramming the Scene- Basic Speed Calculations -Practical Applications
ADVANCED COLLISION INVESTIGATION - 40 HOURS- Combined Speed Calculations - Basic Kinetic Energy Calculations -Vault and Fall Calculations
COLLISION RECONSTRUCTION SCHOOL - 40 HOURS - Linear Momentum Calculations- Advanced Kinetic Energy Calculations
TOTAL STATION/SOFTWARE TRAINING- 40 HOURS- Basic and Advanced CAD Scale Diagramming - Pedestrian/Vehicle Investigations, 2D Diagramming, 3D and Animated CAD Models
While the above is not a comprehensive list of training available for Crash Reconstructionists, it should provide you with a general understanding of the depth of specialized training that these SBPD Crash Reconstruction Unit Officers use in the investigation of serious accidents.
Thus, by providing technical investigators in the form of certified Crash Reconstructionists, SBPD ensures the complete and timely investigation of all significant property damage, serious body injury or fatal crashes, with attention to details and evidence.