Reconstructionists in Court PDF Print E-mail

August 20, 2011

Speed caused fatal crash involving police car, experts say

Former Memphis officer charged with vehicular homicide in 2009 death

"Two accident reconstruction experts testified Friday that a police officer's 'excessive speed' was the cause of a fatal crash in 2009 in Frayser that killed a woman and critically injured her teenage passenger.

Jurors in the vehicular homicide case against former officer Mark Weatherly also viewed computerized animation that depicted the crash that killed motorist Stephanie Montague, 40, and injured her passenger, Tiffany McGhee, 17.

Weatherly was driving at speed of up to 101 mph moments before his 2008 Dodge Charger police cruiser, which was northbound on a hilly section of Range Line road, struck the left front side of Montague's westbound Nissan Altima as she pulled from a stop sign on Orman Avenue.

Weatherly was heading back to his North Precinct at the end of his shift.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Andy Shelton and private accident reconstructionist Daniel Billington of Crashteams GREAT LAKES in Bay City, Mich., told jurors Weatherly's speed was the primary cause of the crash.

'It's not possible for her to see him coming' over the hilly stretch of Range Line, said Shelton. 'He clearly could have seen her if he was going the speed limit.'

The speed limit on Range Line is 40 mph.

Defense attorney Ted Hansom noted in questioning the experts that the data-retrieval devices in the police vehicle are not monitored for accuracy by any governmental body as are black boxes in airlines.

After viewing a series of short animations of the crash viewed from different angles, each one showing the Altima stopping at the stop sign before proceeding, the attorney asked Billington what report or witness statement he relied upon in determining that the Altima did not run the stop sign.

'There isn't one,' Billington replied.

Billington determined that Montague was going about 12 mph and that Weatherly was traveling at 67mph at the time of impact.  Shelton said his calculations showed the Altima traveling at 18 mph and the police car at 67 mph.

Prosecutors Glen Baity and Doug Carricker rested their case Friday, and the defense will have an opportunity to present proof when the trial before Judge Lee Coffee resumes today.


- Lawrence Buser: