On a clear night, on a straight road, at a time when none of the four people in her car were talking, cell phones weren't being used and the radio wasn't on, Rachel L. Enderle, with her hands on the wheel and her eyes straight ahead, didn't see Ronald J. Wendt's truck until a second before her Toyota Camry hit it.
Wendt, on trial for manslaughter and reckless driving, is accused of turning left on Route 20 at the location of My Saloon in Darien Center, right in front of 27-year-old Enderle's car.
Enderle's Camry plowed into the side of the Dodge Ram truck, and Enderle apparently neither hit her brakes nor swerved to avoid the accident.
Katie Stanley, 18, died as a result of the accident. She was a passenger in Enderle's car.
Alexander resident Wendt, 25, could serve up to 25 years in prison if convicted by the 12-person jury of aggravated reckless driving.
Enderle testified today that she wasn't distracted in any way prior to the accident, though she was probably going 55 mph in the 40 mph zone. The Dansville resident testified that she didn't see the lower speed limit signs when driving into the hamlet.
The only thing she remembers is seeing the maroon passenger side door of Wendt's truck just before hitting it.
"I didn't know where it came from," Enderle said.
She said she had no time to react.
"In my head and my heart, I do feel like I got my foot on the brake," Enderle said."I don’t know if pushed down on it."
While another witness testified that Wendt had his headlights on, Enderle said she didn't see the headlights of his truck approaching from the east.
Two of the three witnesses who testified today could not recall with certainty whether Wendt used his turn signal.
Another witness, Amanda McClellan, who was standing on the recessed porch of My Saloon, and couldn't possibly have had a clear view of Wendt's truck as it approached the spot of the accident, said Wendt didn't have his turn signal on.
While Enderle said she had no time to react, another driver, Brian C. Fox, of Portageville, said he was two or three seconds behind Enderle's Toyota, managed to slam on the brakes of his pickup truck and stop five feet short of the collision.
Fox said he saw Wendt's truck -- with headlights on -- down the road before Wendt started his turn, but said Wendt turned quickly right in front of Enderle's car.
Asked by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman his opinion on whether the driver of the Toyota could possibly have had time to react, Fox said, "There was nothing they could do."
Speed, of course, is an important factor in reaction time.
Both Fox and Enderle testified that they couldn't say for sure how fast they were going, but there were driving with the flow of traffic.
Evidence indicates that Fox told investigators after the accident that he was going 55 mph. Today, Fox testified that he said he was going 55 because he thought that was the speed limit on that stretch of Broadway Road.
Today, he initially testified that he must have been going between 45 mph and 55 mph.
At a DMV hearing some months ago, Fox testified that he may have been going as fast as 60 mph.
McClellan testified that she thought Enderle was traveling at about the speed limit, or 40 mph. She estimated Wendt's speed to be between 30 and 40 mph as he went into the turn into the parking lot, though she admitted she didn't hear his tires squeal or see his truck fishtail.
Both Enderle and McClellan testified that beer cans and bottles flew from the bed of Wendt's truck at the time of impact. McClellan said there were as many as 20 beer containers on the ground near the accident scene.
"A man had said let’s get these cans and bottles out of here before the cops get here," Enderle said.
Testimony in the Wendt trial resumes in the morning.