Data recorders, drone mapping and other types of analysis were what state troopers used to conclude a Pauls Valley motorist's high speed is the cause of a tragic accident taking the lives of two young siblings last year.
The testimony of three Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers came during the second day of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Nov. 5 in the manslaughter case of Aaron Patchell, 23.
Patchell is accused of causing the two-vehicle collision that ended with the deaths of 13-year-old Kadence Hewett and her brother, Gunner Hewett, 9.
The Hewett siblings were riding in a sport utility vehicle struck by a truck driven by Patchell back on July 20, 2019 at an intersection of two county roads, one of them often called Old Highway 19, a few miles east of Pauls Valley.
During his testimony Trooper Jason Riddle described in great detail many of the tools he used to reconstruct the collision. That included event data recorders pulled from both vehicles, which are modules that are typically recording data through the airbag system most of the time a newer vehicle is being driven.
Things like time distance formulas, damage profiles and a drone to map the accident scene were also used to help Riddle conclude Patchell's truck was traveling around 85 mph on a road with a speed limit of 45 mph.
“The data recorder showed the red truck was traveling 84 mph five seconds before the collision,” Riddle said.
“It was traveling 85 mph at 1 ½ seconds before the impact. I concluded it was traveling 63 mph at impact.”
After the data analysis Riddle concluded the SUV was traveling about 2 ½ mph just before impact as it was apparently departing from a stop sign eventually getting to 17.4 mph.
The trooper said his analysis tells him the “collision doesn't occur” if the truck had been traveling at the speed limit.
“I concluded with my calculations that if the truck had been traveling the speed limit the collision wouldn't have happened.”
Trooper Tim Brinson was the first OHP official to arrive at the wreck site last year. He said the county road traveling north and south had stop signs at the intersection.
“When I arrived I observed a red truck on its top and a white SUV northwest of the intersection,” Brinson said, adding Patchell was driving the truck westbound, while the SUV was moving northbound.
“He said he looked down at the speedometer and was going 55 and when he looked up that's when the impact occurred,” the trooper said about Patchell's statement to him at the scene.
The trooper testified the cause of the accident was Patchell's truck “exceeding the legal speed limit,” while he believes there was “no unsafe or unlawful action” by the driver of the SUV.
Brinson said he called in the expertise of troopers in the OHP Traffic Homicide Unit, which are trained to reconstruct the actions of fatality collisions.
Briefly taking the stand was Trooper Ken Duncan, who said there didn't appear to be any evidence of mechanical problems for either vehicle that could have been the cause.
One other witness during the hearing in a Garvin County District courtroom was James Robinson.
Robinson was a co-worker who instructed Patchell to be truthful when filling a company incident report after last year's accident.
Patchell, who was driving a truck from his employer, filled out the form at the offices of an oilfield company in Lindsay.
“On the day of the incident we had a conversation about what happened,” Robinson said.
“We talked about the details of what had happened. I told him not to leave out any details and just tell the truth,” he said about the company report.
No testimony was offered about what Patchell wrote in his statement on the accident.
Patchell's case now moves forward as he's scheduled to be arraigned in early February. A jury trial date could be set at that time.