Accident reconstructionists attempt to place Darien hit-and-run victim at exact location of impact
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman called two rebuttal witnesses this afternoon, who are both accident reconstructionists, to provide insight about the precise location of 18-year-old Connor Lynskey when he was struck by alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano last August in Darien.
Expert James Orr testified in order to explain his findings based on police photographs and investigation measurements from the accident scene. Orr’s rationale for the absence of tire marks in the gravel along the edge of Sumner Road is that gravel will not be disturbed unless sudden maneuvering or braking occurs.
A photograph of what is purported to be Lynskey’s footprint was revisited numerous times today in court. The image, according to Orr, depicts a heel print in the gravel and the top of the foot pivoting out of the frame. Orr said this pivot represents Lynskey’s right foot as the left side of his body rotates in the direction of the vehicle upon impact. Orr said no debris of any kind could make that type of mark.
"Using the debris field that was found primarily on the shoulder, gravel and grass, jurors will determine whether Lynskey was positioned in the traffic lane or if Serrano’s vehicle left the roadway.
Orr said that debris in accident scene photos may indicate that broken pieces from the vehicle's exterior made contact with Lynskey’s body at the point of impact.
Defense attorney Frank LoTempio asked Orr how he could know the exact collision location if he had relied on photos taken by Genesee County Sheriff's Office Investigator Chris Parker, who admitted he could not recall the precise location of gravel disturbance. Orr remained confident in his assertion that Lynskey was located on the shoulder at the time of impact.
Jon Northrup, the second expert who testified today, reviewed police measurements and photos, and calculated pedestrian formulas when conducting his investigation. Northrup extended the angle of Lynskey’s slide path back to the shoulder and edge of the road to estimate Lynskey’s position.
Northrup testified that Lynksey flew 12 feet in the air upon collision and slid 18 feet through vegetation, a total distance of 30 feet from strike to resting place. Northrup predicts that Serrano’s vehicle was driving on the shoulder approximately 2.5 feet off the edge of the road.
Northrup said Lynskey’s footprint and contact with the vehicle’s windshield are not consistent with Lynskey tripping into the path of Serrano’s Jeep. He said that Lynskey was upright when he was struck.
Northrup disagreed with Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstructionist called by defense counsel, about his findings related to vehicle speed and visibility. Northrup claims Serrano's vehicle was traveling faster than 37.5 miles per hour and its headlight visibility was over 150 feet.
Orr and Northrup agreed that photo evidence from the accident scene that was collected by investigators could have been more conclusive had they made better photographs of the alleged footprint and debris field. They said accident reconstruction experts are trained to observe evidence that officers may not look for.
Orr and Northrup each conceded there is no way to determine the precise vehicle speed or location of Lynskey upon impact because pedestrian calculations are only accurate for full-body hits, not partial strikes.
Serrano is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Jurors will be informed of the legal specifications of each of the four counts tomorrow at 9 a.m. in Genesee County Court.