Background

As complicated as motor vehicle crashes are to reconstruct, watercraft collisions are even more complicated, especially when the assignment is to determine who was operating the vessel at the time of the crash.  In this case, there were multiple occupants of the boat, all of whom perished in the collision with a barge in a major river system.  When the boat was recovered it was partially submerged. To further complicate matters this crash took place at night and alcohol impairment was suspected.

Introtech Accident Reconstruction Services

The Introtech staff extensively documented the vessel including a detail of all contact and induced damage patterns outside and inside the vessel.  Special attention was given to contact points and evidence made by occupant collisions inside the vessel.  The vessel was scanned with a 3D scanner and rendered into a 3D image for better analysis of the collision angle between the pleasure craft and the barge.  The injury patterns of both occupants were analyzed and then matched with the impact points found inside the vessel.  Photographs of the barge were analyzed including the contact damage pattern. Exemplar occupants of similar size to the deceased were placed in various locations and postures in the wreckage to gain a better understanding of how the occupants would move inside the vessel during the collision.  Since the barge was not available for an actual inspection, Introtech researched the dimensions of the barge from Coast Guard records and then rendered a scale drawing of the barge including the placement of the contact damage.  Finally, navigation charts of the river were analyzed, emergency response records were evaluated and a navigation rules for inland waters assessed.

Analysis

  • We were able to determine which occupant was the operator.
  • Alcohol played a factor to the cause of the crash.
  • We determined the operator of the pleasure vessel was primarily responsible for the crash and a number of Navigation Rules were violated by that operator.