Saturday, March 17, 2012

How did this crash happen?

MCSD squad car 507
When you read a Crash Report prepared by a law enforcement officer, particularly one high up in the food chain, you ought to be able to figure out pretty quickly what happened and, likely, who was at fault.

On March 2, 2012, at about 5:52PM, McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car 507 was involved in a two-vehicle crash on Route 47, 1/2-mile south of O'Brien Road. That's between Hebron and Woodstock, for those who don't know where O'Brien Road is. The roadway at that point is straight.

That was the evening of a snowstorm and, earlier in the afternoon, roads were very slick and blowing snow sharply restricted visibility.

Most crashes involving police vehicles are investigated by outside agencies. If a deputy's squad car were involved in a crash, the crash ought to be investigated by the Illinois State Police or a police officer from a nearby town. This means that a "more impartial" officer is writing it up, not that that always results in "impartial" reporting.

In this Friday evening crash two weeks ago, Deputy (Lt.) William Lutz said he was driving south on Route 47. He was driving a white, unmarked, 2007 Chevrolet Impala.

The other driver, Jennifer Norton, of Hebron, was driving a 2003 Ford Escape.

Numerous errors exist in the Crash Report, as prepared by Lt. John Miller #1431, of the Sheriff's Department. Was the Illinois State Police even called that evening to inquire whether a trooper was available to cover this crash, or did deputies "assume" (or hope) no trooper was available? Was Hebron PD called to request an officer to investigate? Or was Woodstock PD called?

The white unmarked squad car shows direct-impact damage in the left rear door and the fender over and toward the front of the car from the left rear tire. The diagram in the Crash Report shows the damage to the squad car correctly; however, the narrative report incorrectly reports the damage to the "driver's side rear quarter panel" without mentioning the major damage to the left rear door.

The Ford had damage to the front bumper, between the center of the bumper and the right headlight. However, the diagram shows the damage on the right side, including the fender and the right door, which did not have damage, according to photographs taken at the scene.

Now ask yourself this. How does a crash occur between oncoming vehicles that results in left rear door damage to one vehicle and right front bumper damage to the other vehicle? Am I the only one in the county who thinks the deputy's car was not "traveling s/b" on Route 47? I understand "traveling s/b" to mean that the vehicle was moving south in the southbound lane in a straight direction-of-travel, not sliding or turning. If that's true, there is no way that the damage shown could have occurred to the squad car.

Usually, the direction of North is indicated by an arrow pointing "up" or to the top of the page as you look at it. On this Crash Report, the "North" arrow points down. The diagram contains no drawing of the vehicles at the point of impact. The drawing is only of the vehicles where they came to rest. That final position is supported by one of the photographs taken at the scene.

The deputy's unmarked car is off the road on the west shoulder, facing south. The civilian's car is facing south in the southbound traffic lane. A MCSD squad car with emergency lights on is parked in the south lane with its emergency lights on, protecting the civilian's car in the traffic lane..

Skid marks in the snow indicate the deputy's car slid off the road in a southwest direction and quickly stopped. Was the deputy's car actually struck in the northbound lane and then went off the road sideways as it slid to a stop? Was the deputy making a U-turn on Route 47 at the time he was hit, as was told to me shortly after the crash? Did the deputy say over the police radio that his car had been hit while he was turning around?

This might account for the short distance that the deputy's vehicle traveled after being hit and for the almost-direct hit damage to the left rear door of the squad car and the front bumper damage to the Ford Escape.

Would this account for there being no ticket issued to Ms. Norton? If the crash wasn't her fault, you avoid a big mess in court by not giving her a ticket. But, if it wasn't her fault, whose fault was it?

The Crash Report has a section labeled Contributory Cause(s), primary and secondary. That section of the report was left blank. Why?

The squad car was towed from the scene.Yet the crash report box for "Towed (due to crash)" was left blank. An entry at the bottom of Page 2 indicates the squad car was towed by DeCraene's to the Sheriff's Dept.

Why was this report handwritten, rather than using the Mobile Crash Report ("MCR" (computerized reporting form))?

Don't MCSD crash-reporting guidelines require the reporting deputy (Lt. Miller, in this case) to include a diagram showing the vehicles in motion (direction before impact; position (or angle) of vehicles at the point-of-impact, movement of vehicle after impact to final resting place), since a Department vehicle was involved and towed from the scene?

Who was the more at-fault driver in this crash? By placing Ms. Norton as Unit #1, the majority of liability is assigned to her. Being #1 means that the County will not pay for the damage to her car, even if she was not at fault or not the major contributor to the crash.

Is there a well-known, but probably unwritten, rule at MCSD that, if you are called to investigate a crash involving a city, county or state vehicle, that you ticket the driver of Unit #1?

I don't mean to be picking on Lt. Lutz here; I don't know him. But if he did begin a U-turn on a slick highway during blowing snow and reduced visibility conditions, in a white car with no emergency lights visible to the side, and Ms. Norton came upon his car sideways in the road (with limited traction due to slick highway), was the crash really her fault?

The use of "in summary" in this Crash Report makes it impossible to know what happened on that highway. Did Ms. Norton state that she lost control? Did she say why, such as "I was traveling at 15-20MPH on a slick highway. Blowing snow sharply reduced visibility. When I saw a white car sideways in my lane, I slammed on my brakes and my car slid into the white car"?

When Lt. Lutz said "in summary" that he was "traveling s/b on Rt. 47", was he? For what distance? Was he actually completing a U-turn when his squad car was hit?

There is no way that he was driving straight ahead in the southbound lane and got hit while in the southbound lane. Just look at the damage to the unmarked squad car. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

7 comments:

Sickofthenonsense said...

I read and pay attention to all your stories Gus. This sounds like a story you already wrote. Didn't a couple of years ago a deputy make a u turn or pull off the side of the rode and cause an accident? If I remember right, didn't a supervisor write the report and blame the civilian? What the heck are these "supposed" police officers doing? Now this civilian will have to cover her own expenses with the insurance because the deputies lie on official reports and in official statement in order to cover up. How many stories have you posted that you believe deputies have lied in official reports?

I hate to beat a dead horse especially since he already won, but what exactly did the other deputy get fired for doing? What the heck is going on over there?

Gus said...

Sickof..., good memory. Yes, indeed. Back on 7/13/08, a deputy pulled a u-turn in traffic and hit the side of a passing car. The civilian driver was listed as Unit 1, but not ticketed.

I helped her fight for her $5,000 damage for two years; she finally gave up, just short of filing a small claims lawsuit in McHenry County.

Info Getter said...

Ok Gus lets pick apart your thoughts on this crash. If the Deputies car would have been turning around as you state would it be safe to say that the suv struck the squad broadside? And if so then there would have been much more damage to the left side of the squad because the whole front of the suv would have struck versus the small damage to the right front of it? Flat surface hitting flat surfaceRight?
Now let’s say the squad was traveling southbound as indicated, and the suv was traveling northbound as indicated. What if the suv did lose control and the right back end started to slide outward and that would place the front right end at an angle towards the squad. So the impact would be a glancing blow with the right front impacting on the squad and making contact at the wheel well as shown where the most damage was done by the photo you supplied. Or better yet if you don’t think it could have happened that way contact the other driver and see what she has to say before you start accusing of wrong doing. Have facts, not what you think! We all know you have it in for the MCSD but you should be fair and not lump all the Deputies into one pool. As for the incompleteness of the crash report you are correct and I will agree with you if it is the way you said it is, as I did not see it.

Gus said...

Info Getter, thanks for your comments.

As we all know, I am not an accident reconstructionist. The damage to the left side of the squad car was not insignificant. It got hit pretty hard.

What if the squad car was turning around, starting to move in a left curving direction and got hit on a slick highway. It would begin sliding sooner on a slick highway, reducing damage.

If the SUV had been sliding sidewalks and hit the s/b squad car, assuming it was heading straight south in the southbound lane, there wouldn't have been the big dent in the door or the leading edge of the left rear quarter-panel. Wouldn't there be scrape marks?

Thanks for the good idea to contact the woman in Hebron.

No, I don't "have it in" for MCSD, and I certainly haven't lumped all deputies into one (or any) pool.

The majority are hard-working and conscientious. They won't like this crash report any better than the one from July 2008. All crash reports need to be fair, accurate and unbiased.

Info Getter said...

Gus said - What if the squad car was turning around, starting to move in a left curving direction and got hit on a slick highway. It would begin sliding sooner on a slick highway, reducing damage.

Gus then the right front quarter panel would have been hit not the front right bumper. I'm telling you gus your wrong on this one. Prove me wrong with what the other driver will tell if you contact her.

drapermafia said...

Gus doesn't lump all MCSD into one group. His readers like myself do. Now go home and molest your children...

Info Getter said...

WOW Gus you have reached a new low by letting that post on here from drapermafia be posted! Telling people to go molest children because he did not like that i thought you put all deputies in one group.I'm going to a word that you use all the time (SIC).