Steering data shows Kirkwood tried to avoid fatal crash, expert tells trial

The United Counties building and Provincial Offences Act courthouse at 22 Pitt Street in Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A traffic reconstruction expert for the defence reviewed traffic data on the stand Thursday suggesting the driver of a Dodge Journey tried to avoid a crash on County Road 7.

Bill Jennings, a forensic engineer with Jenish Engineering, testified in the trial of Catriona Kirkwood, the 42-year-old Chesterville mother charged with careless driving. She has pleaded not guilty in the crash that killed Morrisburg lawyer Peter Remillard.

Jennings did not dispute police findings that the point of impact was in the northbound lane of County Road 7 – that Kirkwood’s southbound Journey had crossed the centerline before striking Remillard’s BMW.

But Jennings also noted data showing deceleration and a turn to the right up to three seconds before impact.

“The only two parameters that changed (steering and throttle) are the two parameters that are driver input,” he said, disagreeing with police that those inputs happened from the force of the crash.

“(There is) pressure on the accelerator being removed,” he testified. “Both of those are consistent with a reaction (of the driver).”

Had the data been picked up after impact, Jennings said other parameters would have changed such a engine revolutions per minute (RPM), which was not seen in the data recorder.

As for reconstructing the crash using computer models, Jennings said the O.P.P. had done a good job of photographing the scene but the labelling of points of interest at the crash scene was “not as thorough” as he would have liked.

Jennings said he had to make a number of assumptions in running the tests because marks on the road, such as scrapes and scratches, were all labelled “area of impact” in the data collected by the accident reconstruction survey machine called Total Station.

That being said, Jennings noted his simulation “very closely” mirrored the data.

Relaxation in steering

Jennings said the southbound Dodge Journey had started into the curve following the road but there was a “relaxation of steering prior to impact.”

Based on the data, the expert said the Journey intruded into the northbound lane slightly more than one second before the crash.

Jennings also explained that for the time of year, February 2015, the sun “could have been a distraction on the approach for the southbound vehicle.” Based on his calculations, the sun would have been just over the treetops and through the driver’s side window.

It was a sunny and bitterly cold day on Feb. 24, 2015, based on previous testimony in the trial.

The Crown will cross examine Jennings this morning (Friday) before closing arguments are heard this afternoon.

Judge Karen Baum has indicated a verdict won’t likely come until December.