What goes into a major crash investigation

Thursday's fatal crash on I-75 which claimed 7 lives including 5 children could take months before a final investigative report is complete. TV20 sat down with a lawyer who specializes in forensic crash investigation cases and shows us why it could take so long.

In the event of a serious accident, as soon as all victims are taken to the hospital, Highway Patrol investigators start trying to piece together what happened.
Mark Avera was a police officer and now specializes in crash investigation law cases he explained the process investigators go through. "They'll be using a laser and establishing a zero point and measuring items from that. They'll be trying to establish where the initial impact took place in the Northbound lanes. But leading up to the crash they'll be looking into issues like is alcohol involved, is there drug use involved. For commercial vehicles like semi's involved in a crash like this they'll be looking at hours of service."

Truck drivers cannot by law drive more than 11 hours at a time and be on duty more than 14 hours in a day. So going over their time logs is one of the first things looked at. Witness statements also play a huge part in finding a cause.

"If someone is watching this and they saw something leading up to that crash please they need to call the Highway Patrol and tell them they saw something and give their name and number so someone from the Highway Patrol can come out and interview them, it could be critical that they do so."

As for why it took Highway Patrol investigators nearly 24 hours to notify families of who was injured or killed in Thursday's deadly I-75 crash, Avera said.
"They've got to be absolutely certain that if they're sending law enforcement in Louisiana to convey a passing of a child that they have the correct and documented information about who that child was in the crash. So I would anticipate it would take hours, many hours to get that information particularly if adults in the van were unable to communicate because of their own injuries."

Avera says he believes FHP most likely already has a good idea of what caused the crash but questions such as who was wearing seatbelts, what caused the first semi-trailer to go from the Northbound lane to the Southbound lane and why the fires started are what will take weeks possibly months to complete.

"Not because the traffic homicide investigator is working slowly it's because he or she is backed up on the work they're doing, lack of manpower to investigate traffic homicides. This one because of the number of lives that were lost I'm sure FHP will dedicate all their resources they have at their disposal to get some answers as quickly as they can."

Normally the National Transportation Safety Bureau will assist with investigations of this magnitude but because of the current government shutdown, the investigation is completely up to FHP.