Beyond the Badge: How do investigators reconstruct the scene of an accident?
LAPORTE, Ind. --- ABC57’s Beyond the Badge series continues with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office.
The county sees a lot of crashes since drivers pass through going from South Bend to Chicago and vice versa. One Detective Sergeant is responsible for running a whole team, solely for investigating those crashes.
This week, Michiana will meet Scott Boswell, the Commander of the county’s FACT team, for a behind-the-scenes look at how reconstructing a crash scene works.
Boswell has been with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office as an officer since 2004. He wears a lot of hats at the department, including accident reconstruction work, which is a complicated process.
“Each scene is different,” Boswell said. “A scene can take anywhere from an hour to several hours.”
The team is equipped with state-of-the-art tools to better understand what happened leading up to a crash. There’s a lot of measuring involved; ‘black boxes’, or data recorders in your car, provide a lot of those measurements and can sometimes be the key to showing what went wrong.
“It’s usually in a five second window up to the crash and then the crash itself.”
They also use a laser system and even a drone.
“Crashes are over in probably 300 milliseconds or less,” he explained. “And that's typically faster than what a major league pitcher can get a 95 mph fastball to the plate.”
That doesn’t mean the answer to what happened comes quickly or easily.
“We want to find as many answers as we can because it is important for the families,” he said. “It is important for anybody that reviews it to have a full understanding of what happened.”
An investigation can take up to several months. A single step in the investigation process can take hours of precious time, but each part provides another piece of the puzzle these investigators are putting together. They use key factors such as reaction time, speed or whether a driver hit the brakes to paint a picture of what happened.
The work might be tedious, but to Boswell, it’s important.
“There is some pressure to be able to answer things for the family or the victim's family.”
Boswell said a majority of their investigations don’t end up being criminal, but if they do, they have to be prepared.
“We only have one opportunity to send a case,” he said. “I just always think of that that one shot deal where we got to put our best foot forward and let's take our time and let's do it right and not shortcut things. That's the biggest thing for me. I know it's hard for a victim or their family, for instance. We work as quickly as we can with the information that we can, but being patient with us so we can find all those answers. That's a great benefit to us.”