Norcross, Ga. — Recognizing the emerging importance of scanning technology in forensic accident reconstruction, Leica Geosystems and the Accident Reconstruction Communications Network (ARC Network) took advantage of concurrently running conferences to offer a uniquely valuable training event. The full-day course included classroom training at the Las Vegas MGM Conference Center, filmed crashes of two actual cars (sponsored by Leica), hands-on scanning with a Leica Geosystems C10 3D laser scanner, conversion of the resulting scene captures to a 2D drawing using Leica ForensicMAP Pro as well as Crash Zone, and crush deformation analysis of the crashed vehicle with Leica Cyclone-MODEL software.
"It was very exciting to have so many attendees from seven different agencies and several countries," said Leica's Accident Investigation Account Manager Frank J. Hahnel, III. "The feedback was positive, and several attendees were convinced that forensic laser scanning was a mature technology and worth an investment."
The ARC-CSI conferences are famous for staging actual crashes, so that accident reconstructionists can gain real world experience comparing crashes with the immediate aftermath. But this was the first such course that also involved actual scanning, and the first to show how scanning data is developed into plans and models that can be used in court. "It has always been our goal to teach accident reconstruction experts how to use the latest technology in forensic crash investigation," said ARC-CSI organizer Scott Baker. "And we are very happy to be working with Leica Geosystems to include laser scanning as part of our popular 'real-world crash' courses. Of the total seven fully instrumented crash tests, two of them were used with Leica’s laser scanning system. Witnessing full-scale, instrumented crash tests first-hand and then seeing the captured data applied to real-world crash scenarios in an invaluable learning experience.”
The planned crashes always draw a lot of attention and this year, they were featured on the front page of the Las Vegas Sun. Hahnel was quoted, pointing out that Leica's laser scanning systems have been used on sensitive cases such as the Casey Anthony Case. "But really," Hahnel says, "It's also important to use this excellent technology in areas that might seem more ordinary, like automobile accidents."
Accident reconstruction experts have long known that actually witnessing crashes gives investigators experience that is otherwise unobtainable; witnessing the crash and immediately applying reconstruction techniques, verifies and confirms classroom knowledge and techniques. "As a crime scene investigator, I often get calls to scan vehicular manslaughter scenes," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) Forensic Specialist Sarah Watson, "But of course, I am always arriving after the accident has occurred. To actually witness the crash, and then scan, was invaluable—I learned a lot, and I recommend courses like this to anyone doing forensic laser scanning. It was great, and I got a lot out of it!"
"The Leica Geosystems C10 laser scanner can gather data at the rate of 50,000 points per second, quickly creating highly accurate 'point clouds' that model real world scenes," said Hahnel, "Creating and using accurate models is absolutely critical to modern crash scene analysis, and a course like this is a great way to teach that skill. This was our first time to work with ARC-CSI in the field, but it won't be our last—our creative juices are flowing, and we'll be back for Hexagon 2013!"