Reconstructing a crash: 'It's not like CSI'

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - There have already been several car crashes involving bikes and pedestrians this spring in the Treasure Valley. Crashes happen in a split second, but figuring out exactly what happened can take anywhere from hours to months.

Boise Police and several other Idaho agencies teamed up on Thursday for a crash reconstruction drill.

Because detectives arrive after the crash, they can only work with what is left behind at the scene. The goal of the training is to help crews find several ways to get to the same conclusion of what happened.

"What we're trying to do is figure out all of the questions that we need to answer, and then look at the evidence to see if we can answer those questions," crash reconstruction team manager David Cavanaugh said.

Reconstructionists say they're faced with different circumstances and pieces of evidence at every crash, so anything left behind becomes part of the case.

"We'll look at the damage on the vehicle, we'll look at the injuries, the roadway evidence, any skid marks," Cavanaugh said. "Any data we can collect from the vehicle. We'll look at witness statements. Anything and everything really needs to be taken into account."

From there, officers say it can take days, weeks or even months to figure out what happened in a crash.

"It's not like CSI on television, we can't just overnight come up with a miraculous conclusion," Ada County Sheriff's Deputy Tod Moyer said. "It is a process and sometimes it does take time."

While every crash investigators come up on is different, detectives say these demos help give them guidelines to go off of when they're in the field.

"That helps us to look at a scene later on and compare some of the similarities, and that becomes really huge if there's less evidence available to us," Cavanaugh said. "Classes like this are vital to anybody who is trying to continue with their investigation."