UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. Nov. 26
A professional engineer told court today that Chase Donaldson, the man accused of a 2010 hit and run resulting in the death of a Vernon woman, may have made his fatal swerve because another vehicle appeared to be coming at him.
Kurt Ising, a mechanical engineer and employee at MEA Forensic (based in Vancouver) testified today on behalf of the defense. Ising prepared a collision investigation report for the April 30, 2010 accident in which Donaldson's 2006 Subaru Impreza struck and killed 22-year-old Kiera-Leigh Carlson.
Ising's report provided different findings from those of Sgt. Brian Nightingale, a collision analyst who testified last week for the Crown.
"Nightingale's report deals with a different set of assumptions," said Ising.
Ising had to accept five assumptions in order to calculate the results he did. Among them was the assumption that Donaldson deliberately turned to the southbound shoulder because he believed a car was coming at him in his lane.
Nightingale, on the other hand, had based his calculations on the belief that Donaldson had not intentionally turned to the left, but had veered that way because he lost control of his vehicle.
In his experiments, Ising attempted to recreate the tire marks found on the shoulder of the road which are believed to be Donaldson's. Ising said he could only recreate those marks if Donaldson's speed had been 85 km/hr. He said Donaldson had likely accelerated when he swerved, and that his starting speed would have been about 75km/hr.
The other car that Ising included in his experiments was the 2006 Mazda belonging David and Beth Regehr, who testified last week for the Crown.
The Regehrs described turning off of Hwy 6 onto Aberdeen Rd to the sight of Donaldson's car driving straight toward them, in their lane. David Regehr, at the wheel, steered to his left, into the wrong lane, to avoid the car.
"If my husband hadn't swerved over into the other lane," said Beth Regehr, "we would have been killed."
But in one of Ising's scenarios, it was the Regehr vehicle that first crossed the center line and caused Donaldson to swerve the way he did.
"(That) would suggest the description given by the Regehrs is not correct," said defense lawyer Glenn Verdurmen.
Ising said the Regehrs may have made the misconception that Donaldson's vehicle was in their lane when it really wasn't.
A similar misconception was described by Chase Donaldson's wife Marcia Donaldson on Friday when she said her husband had seen headlights approaching and mistook them for a car directly in his lane.
Ising noted that during his examination of the scene, he observed a fence line bordered by a hedge that would effectively obscure a northbound driver's view of the intersection for a period of time. Ising said Donaldson may have initiated his swerve when the sightline resumed and he caught sight of the approaching Regehr vehicle.
"I assume he recognized it (the Regehr vehicle) as a hazard 1.5 seconds before he crossed the centre line," said ising, who had allowed for 1.5 seconds for Donaldson to put thought into action.
Crown lawyer Iain Currie asked Ising why Donaldson would have accelerated to 85 km/h at the outset of the swerve.
"I could never comment on what a specific individual will do," said Ising.
Currie questioned the likelihood of a driver wrongly perceiving a car in his lane. He noted that coming around a righthand curve was a commonplace driving scenario, and that there are no documented studies in which a driver in this scenario has wrongly perceived a car driving in the wrong lane.
"As far as I know there is no study of that," said Ising.
Currie noted that a truck (belonging to Wayne Weber, who also testified) that was waiting to turn left at the intersection would have offered a significant cue to both Donaldson and the Regehrs about which lane was which. Ising agreed seeing this vehicle would have helped establish where the center line was.
Of the suggested action of the Regehrs, Currie said, "You'll concede there is no conceivable explanation why a sober and sane person would have done that (swerved into the wrong lane)."
Ising said he had been advised to make certain assumptions in his experiments, which were conducted primarily through simulations on the software program PC Crash.
"What happened April 30 was very far from laboratory conditions," said Currie.