Victoria Eyers describes an investigation into a road traffic collision involving horses.
In 2015, on the A3 in Surrey, a multi-stage, multi-vehicle collision occurred involving two escaped horses and resulting in fatal injuries to both animals. The passenger of a minicab involved in the collision also received catastrophic injuries. TRL’s expert Victoria Eyers was instructed to investigate the collision and to reconstruct the general collision circumstances, chronology of the events, and the likely positions of the horses pre- and post-impact.
Equine collisions can pose a particular challenge for collision investigators due to their lack of frequency. This incident was made more complex due to it occurring on a fast road, meaning the potentially high impact speed and its effect on the collision dynamics had to be considered. The investigation was assisted by detailed photographs and laser scan data of the collision scene collected by police at the time.
Traditional reconstruction techniques could be utilised for reconstructing the general circumstances of the collision. For example, identification of a paint trace provided an indication as to a possible point of impact, and analysis of the marks on the road provided evidence as to the paths followed by the various vehicles in the different phases of the collision. A more significant challenge was posed in determining the likely positions and movements of the horses prior to impact.
Careful analysis was made of the post-impact movements and damage profiles of both cars which were involved in separate primary impacts with the two horses. It was suggested that the car in which the injured passenger was located had spun after impact, but the physical evidence on the carriageway and tyres indicated this was not the case. This implied that the horse was stationary prior to impact, if it had been moving across the path of the car it is expected that there would have been some rotation. The damage profile proceeded along the length of the car without lateral deviation; another indicator as to the horse being stationary or only slow moving when it was struck.
The damage profile also gave evidence as to the orientation of the horse. Post-impact, the body remained in contact with the car’s roof, and was oriented perpendicular to the length of the vehicle. The damage was across the full width of the car, including on the outside of the driver’s-side wing. This suggested that the horse was stood side-on to the car, as a narrower area of damage would have resulted had the horse been stood facing the car or in the direction it was travelling, also bearing in mind where on the vehicle the animal came to rest. The judge accepted this and in her judgement said: “[Ms Eyers] properly considered and took into account what the pattern of damage would look like if [the horse] was parallel to the car, and compared that to the actual damage, and properly distinguished between direct damage and induced damage, taking into account the non-symmetrical distribution of body weight of a horse, when reaching her conclusions as to what, in her opinion, the damage profile and rest position of [the horse] could tell us, in ways that [the Claimant’s expert] did not.”
The evidence was accepted by the Court that the horse was stood side-on to the vehicle when struck, and that the lack of pre-impact momentum meant the animal must have been either only slow moving or stationary at impact.
The work of Ms Eyers in this complex case was praised by Her Honour Judge Melissa Clark who said “I found Ms Eyers to be a good witness who had thought carefully about all the evidence available to her, reached logical conclusions, could justify them and the weight she had given to different pieces of evidence used to reach those conclusions, and overall, was impressive…”
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