6 weeks after crash that killed London, Ont., Girl Guide, police investigation continues
8-year-old Alexandra Stemp was killed in the November 30 crash
The police investigation into the November crash that killed a little girl and injured several others is likely taking a long time because of the large number of victims and the long distance travelled by the car involved in the incident, a veteran safety expert and accident reconstruction specialist says.
It's been just over six weeks since the Nov. 30 crash on Riverside Drive at Wonderland Road that left 10 Girl Guides and one adult injured.
"It's time consuming to be completely accurate, but to be completely accurate is what we want to shoot for because the reports ultimately are going to help make roads safer across the province," said Brian Patterson, the president and CEO of the Ontario Safety Council who has written numerous accident reconstruction reports and is a certified fraud examiner. He also teaches parts of a course about collision investigation for the Safety Council.
London police have not laid any charges in the crash and have given no updates, but did say that the incident is still being investigated.
Shortly following the crash, police said a car heading west on Riverside drive struck a vehicle stopped at a red light. It continued through Wonderland Road, mounted a curb, and struck a light post and tree about 200 metres west of the intersection.
The car then struck a group of pedestrians walking on the north side of Riverside Drive before crossing several lanes of traffic and coming to a stop on the south side of the street against a tree.
The 76-year-old female driver of the car remained at the scene of the crash. She was not injured.
Alexandra Stemp, 8, was killed.
There are four elements that the investigators are considering during their investigation, Patterson said. They are:
- The engineering involved, in particular looking at the equivalent of the black box on the car, which would tell investigators everything that went on in the car in the seconds before impact, including the speed the car was going and whether, if at all, the driver hit the brakes.
- The geography, including the production of a detailed and accurate map of the area, where every person and vehicle involved was at the time of the crash.
- The individual vehicle review, looking at everything from DNA to paint scrapings and whether the car involved in the crash was in good working order.
- The reconstruction, a detailed breakdown of everything that happened every second leading up to, and at the time of the crash.
Officers then have to take all that and put it into a report which will be used for their own purposes, as well as by lawyers involved in any civil lawsuits that are likely to be filed, and by insurance companies.
Multiple vehicles, multiple injuries
"In cases like this, you've got multiple vehicles, and that expands the amount of time, and you've got multiple injures and multiple victims, you need to put those into the package in the report as well," Patterson said.
"The good news is you've got a police department that knows what they're doing."
London's officers are trained at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer.
"The officers that go into reconstruction often have a minimum of about eight years in traffic work, so they understand the complexity of some of these collisions, having investigated them as officers, having determined charges, then doing courses about the science, how to photograph a scene accurately."
Officers may also be using information gathered from people's cell phones or dash cams at the scene, Patterson added.
"They're viewing the scene with time-specific information," he said.
It took a year to reconstruct the Humboldt, Sask., crash, which involved a bus and truck and killed 16 people, injuring 13, Patterson added.