The “perfect storm” from a three-vehicle crash on Highway 97A made it impossible for an RCMP expert to determine from skid marks and vehicle impact how fast Jean-Paul Kowal’s pickup was traveling.
But the airbag told the story.
RCMP accident reconstructionist Sgt. Barry Noonan testified Wednesday in the trial of Kowal, who is charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and causing an accident resulting in death.
Salmon Arm teen Donovan Pippus was killed when his small Pontiac traveling the other way was hit by Kowal’s 4x4 Dodge pickup before midnight on Sept. 1, 2010.
Noonan examined tire marks on the highway that showed Kowal’s truck started to drift into the other lane on a slight bend on the highway, the beginning of a fishtail. A witness Tuesday said the truck was traveling in the other lane when it hit Pippus’s small car head on.
But the involvement of a third vehicle, travelling behind Pippus, made it impossible to use physical evidence to estimate speed.
“We have the perfect storm here: three vehicles heading into the same spot on the globe,” Noonan said.
That’s when investigators turned to data contained in the airbag’s control module, which captures speed, throttle position, rpm and other information in the five seconds before airbags are deployed.
“Data shows between five and four seconds before airbag deployment the speed the vehicle was going was 113 to 114 km/h.”
The speed limit on the section of highway was 90 km/h.
The module showed the driver chopped the gas pedal to zero about one second later. Speed at impact was 102 km/h. The truck’s mass and speed resulted in it pushing the Pontiac in the other direction after impact.
Another RCMP expert matched the airbag data with a computer simulation of the crash, coming up with the same speed.
Noonan also testified he found a number of broken hard liquor bottles in the crew cab of the truck.
Defence lawyer Rishi Gill said he expects Kowal will take the stand in his own defence on Monday morning.