Author Topic: PointCloud verified details of fatal crash leading to conviction  (Read 26344 times)

Bob Galvin

  • Contributor
    • View Profile

The use of MapScenes software for presenting a high-profile Florida vehicular manslaughter case proved pivotal to the investigation’s successful outcome. How the evidence ultimately would be mapped, collected and presented, however, was not exactly straightforward once the investigation began. But that’s because part way into the investigation, the use of MapScenes PointCloud software and a total station was expanded to include a laser scanner, and this combination of technology was a turning point in showing how the fatal crash unfolded.

In the case, a Florida jury convicted Houston millionaire John Goodman of DWI manslaughter and vehicular homicide after a drunk driving crash that killed a college graduate. Goodman ran a stop sign and crashed his $250,000 Bentley into 23-year-old Scott Wilson’s Hyundai in 2010. Wilson’s car was pushed into a canal and he drowned. Goodman walked away from the accident, claiming he saw no sign of Wilson’s car.

PointCloud Software Would Capture Ample Evidence, Display in CAD

Troy Snelgrove, an investigator for the Palm Beach County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department, mapped the crash scene the morning it occurred using a Sokkia reflectorless total station so that a 2D diagram could be created. He also used MapScenes PointCloud software to display point cloud data side by side with MapScenes Forensic CAD. This would effectively allow whatever evidence was captured to appear in both the CAD and PointCloud software windows. And, the PointCloud would show dramatic fly-throughs of the point cloud scene of the Bentley and Hyundai crash scene, plus animate the CAD diagram within the point cloud.

Needed to Prove Goodman’s Vision Was Not Impaired Just Before Crash

When Snelgrove arrived at the scene, he did not realize it had resulted from a hit-and-run incident.“The vehicle Mr. Goodman was driving was still on-scene,” Snelgrove said. “The vehicle that Scott Wilson was driving was pulled out of the canal. From a forensic standpoint, our main goal was to put Mr. Goodman behind the wheel of the car to make sure he’s not impaired (before the vehicles were about to collide). ” This goal was achieved. Although the crash scene had been mapped and diagrammed and several months had passed since the incident occurred, an important technology twist was about to dramatically impact the crash scene’s documentation and how the case would be presented in court.

Diagrams/Animation Overlaid on PointCloud Scan Were a Match

“A few months after this crash, we received a Leica C10 scanner,” Snelgrove said. “I wanted to scan the scene so I could create a 3D animation, and thought it would be great for court presentation.” The 2D diagrams that Snelgrove created
using the total station would show the roadway itself to reveal scene evidence as well as a reconstruction showing the dynamics of what happened in the crash. “All of this is used at the beginning of the animation because you have to know what the road looks like,” Snelgrove said.

When Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department originally purchased the Leica C10 scanner, and Snelgrove decided to use it with the MapScenes software suite of PointCloud, Capture and CAD. However, he recalls, “I had a lot of questions about the accuracy and the way the scenes would be presented in court.”
Two-dimensional diagrams had never been challenged in court, noted Snelgrove, who wondered how he would be able to validate the data provided with the laser scanner. But after working with the scanner in conjunction with the MapScenes software, he eventually discovered that “What the point cloud allows is to bring it from the ‘scan over’ (from the Leica C10 laser scanner) and overlay the CAD drawing on top of it. This allows you to verify your measurements,” Snelgrove said, and I found that in this way the scanner is probably more accurate than a total station.” In prior fatal crash cases, when Snelgrove brought his diagrammed scene into court he was able to say he had been using total station technology for the last 15 years and producing 2D drawings for court.  For the Goodman case, he said, “Now, I wanted to be able to say, ‘Here’s the animation as the (Goodman) car drives through, and that the 2D drawings over the animation and point cloud to show that it’s dead on’. I’m verifying that my point cloud is correct based on my total station drawing.”

Scanner Creates Rich, Detailed Background For Crash Scene

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department investigates between 200 and 220 traffic fatalities per year. For many of these scenes, although total stations are still used to ensure all data points are plotted,the Leica scanner produces a great background of any scene, plus it’s to scale. “It all starts with the CAD drawing” of a crash scene, Snelgrove said.  “I’m able to show the scene at different angles via the scanner.” The scanner must be moved around at a scene several times. Therefore, using a car, for example, the laser scanner can scan the passenger side, front of the car, behind the car and the driver’s side. Snelgrove used Cyclone-SCAN, a software module that interfaces with the Leica C10 scanner to extract HDS targets, so he could build a complete scan model of the Goodman crash scene. “All those targets, such as targets 1,2,3, and 4, will be relative to each other,” Snelgrove explains. “The scanner can rotate around to all these scan targets and meld the scans together in a 3D drawing.” As a result, Snelgrove was able to create a 3D visualization of the full crash scene to become a backdrop for the animation.

MapScenes Used To Show Goodman Case Drivers’ Perspectives

The MapScenes Capture software allowed Snelgrove, who also is a MapScenes trainer, to put a camera into the animated scene where John Goodman’s vision would be inside his Bentley. In this way, the camera could track the other vehicle as a target. Snelgrove duplicated this step for Scott Wilson’s vehicle to show Wilson’s perspective looking at the Bentley. “My main reason for this approach was to see if there were any visual obstructions for either driver,” Snelgrove said. “There were not.” Although he was concerned that presenting these perspectives in court might be viewed as prejudicial, the judge ordered the animations to be released to the media.

Reflecting on his success with the Goodman case,
Snelgrove argues that no single technology can reliably or completely recreate complex crash scenes. Not only were a total station, laser scanner and the MapScenes software used for the Goodman case, but also steel measuring tapes, old tire drag sleds, photography and video. Add to these tools the investigator’s training, experience, gathering of witness testimony, ability to determine relevant physical evidence. Even though all of these tools are helpful for crash investigations, cases like this one prove how pivotal software can be not only for mapping vital evidence points at a scene, but for its versatility in working with other technologies.
In this sense, MapScenes PointCloud proved to be an essential tool that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will continue to rely upon for its investigations of crash scenes. Concludes Snelgrove:

“Out of all the reconstruction software I’ve looked at and used, I’ve yet to see one that is as forensically sound as MapScenes.”

To view the animations created by PointCloud for this case, check out our Gallery.
(MapScenes PointCloud - Fatal Crash Reconstruction 1-3)
« Last Edit: December 06, 2012, 12:23:00 PM by MapScenes Admin »