Experts stick by findings in deadly crash

| 10/06/2021 | 33 Comments
Cayman News Service
Car wreck from fatal crash in East End, 15 February 2018

(CNS): Two crash re-constructionists who concluded that Philip Price (34) was the driver in a fatal crash in East End in 2018, in which his wife was killed but he was never prosecuted, stood by their findings when they appeared before the Coroners Court on Wednesday. The inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure but not before they heard the details of the dramatic collision in which Altameka Price (28) died and her husband was badly injured. Reports by Lenford Butler from the RCIPS and Colin Redden, a local consultant, both concluded that it was Philip Price, not his wife, behind the wheel, driving more than 56mph in a 25mph zone, though a dispute about this had prevented the case against him for dangerous driving from progressing.

(Warning: Readers may find this news report disturbing)

Price was arrested a few weeks after the fatal collision, which happened in the early morning hours of Thursday, 15 February 2018, on Farm Road, not far from where the couple lived. However, he was not charged until 18 months later as a result of how long it took to get the reconstruction reports. But then in February of this year the crown dropped the case against Price, as prosecutors told the court that Butler and Redden were not fully qualified to conclude who was driving.

However, at the coroner’s hearing Redden described this as a technicality. He disputed the idea that he needed a PhD in bio-mechanics, as Price’s attorneys had submitted to the Grand Court, in order to work out what had happened and which one of the two people in the car was driving at the time of the collision.

During the inquest both Butler and Redden gave a detailed reconstruction of the crash. The men explained that as the blue sports, all-wheel drive Subaru was headed along Farm Road, it was going too fast to take a bend that was also on an incline. As a result of light rain, the driver had skidded, lost control, gone into a spin, then over-corrected and crashed into a large almond tree at such speed that the car climbed almost vertically up it around 8 feet. It then became airborne and eventually landed back on its tyres, facing in the opposite direction from where it had been coming.

Neither of the occupants were wearing seat-belts, evidenced by the lack of any stretching or marks on the webbing. A large branch from the tree had penetrated through the roof of the Subaru, which was a total wreck. Inside, Altameka Price was already dead, having sustained severe brain injuries, which were detailed by the pathologist. Philip Price was crushed toward the right-hand side door and had sustained very serious but not fatal injuries.

Redden and Butler both confirmed that the driver’s seat was set very far back, positioned at the furthest distance from the pedals and tilted, suggesting that a very tall person was driving. Their explanation of the couple’s injuries also appeared to support the finding that Altameka Price was the passenger.

They detailed how the crash would have made the couple both shift to the right at high speed inside the car as it collided with the tree. They explained how the forensic evidence inside the vehicle made it clear that, sitting on the left in the passenger seat, Altameka had the worst injuries and died due to the head traumas she sustained as she hit the dashboard, centre consul, handbrake, gear-stick levers, and the steering wheel (severing that from the column) and into the driver-side door, all in those few moments when the car slammed into and up the tree.

Evidence from the coiled steering wheel chord hanging outside the car showed that, because the driver-side window was open when the vehicle landed, the steering wheel itself had been flung out of that window. It was found later sitting on a small concrete garbage receptacle.

Witnesses in the nearby homes reported that after being awakened by a very loud bang, they had dressed, gone outside and walked towards what was clearly the collision scene. One neighbour described to the inquest jury how he had seen the car, and as he approached he saw the passenger door was wide open but could see no one in the badly crushed car. But he then noticed two people on the ground on the other side of the vehicle.

He saw that the women was lying on the man’s back and both were face down. As he approached, he felt certain the woman was dead but he could hear signs of life from the man. While he was calling 911, other neighbours began coming out and they moved the woman and began CPR on the man, who was still alive.

It was almost 30 mins before the ambulance arrived as result of some confusion over the location. But the pathologist confirmed to the jury that this tardy response would not have changed anything for the woman because the evidence suggested she had died more or less instantly on impact from the crash.

Asked in the court about how the couple had ended up on the road outside the car, both Butler and Redden said they did not believe they had been flung out of the car. They explained that the most likely scenario was that in the immediate wake of the crash, Philip Price had managed to get out of the car through the open passenger window and, despite his injuries, had gone to the passenger side and pulled his wife from the wreckage on his back. But before he could get more than a few steps away, he had collapsed on the road.

There was also a question of who had placed the steering wheel where it was found. The experts said it could not have landed where it was found, though it was not clear if any of the witnesses had picked up the wheel or whether Price had somehow managed to pick it up as he came out of the car.

Price was unconscious in the hospital for several days. However, when he awoke he had no memory at all of the crash or the evening beforehand, and was unable to tell police anything that had happened that evening.

According to medical records, the couple had both been drinking and were more than two times over the legal limit for driving. Witnesses had reported that the couple had been enjoying a night out at the Pirates Cove bar with friends before the crash, and when they left it appeared that Altameka was more inebriated than her husband. But no one witnessed who got behind the wheel as the couple set off on their relatively short journey home.

The charges against Philip Price were dropped by the crown after an independent expert was engaged by his attorney. Prosecutors had stated that the RCIPS had accepted that their reconstruction experts were not able to say with certainty that he was the one who was driving.

However, both experts rejected that position during this week’s inquest and remained confident that their findings were accurate because the catalogue of forensic evidence showed that it was impossible for Altameka to have sustained the injuries she did if she had been in the driver’s seat. Both experts also said that she could have survived the crash if she had been wearing a seat-belt.

Philip Price was critically injured but he eventually recovered. Although the crown dropped all charges against him around four months ago, they left the widower wondering if he may still be prosecuted at a later date if the RCIPS engaged a qualified bio-mechanical expert who might be able to draw the conclusions made by Butler and Redden to the requisite legal standard and provide the evidence to support a dangerous driving charge against him.

When the charges were dropped in February, Justice Roger Chapple, the presiding judge in the Grand Court, said that to describe this case as tragic was an “understatement”, as he pointed to the loss of the victim to family members, who were in court, and to her husband, the defendant. He also noted the length of time that the case had taken, and that this tragedy was compounded by the fact that there was still no closure because the crown reserves the right to continue the case in future, evidence permitting.

Justice Chapple said he had “very, very grave concerns” and that the delay of more than 18 months was “alarming”. But he welcomed the investigation into the delay to find out what went wrong and ensure it never happened again.

However, there was no indication during the inquest whether or not any further investigations into the length of time it took Butler and Redden to do their reports had been concluded or if the police were looking to secure a bio-mechanical expert.

As the inquest concluded, Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez, the presiding coroner, was very sympathetic to Altameka Price’s parents, who were present in court, saying she recognised their frustrations and the limited answers that could be provided. She said she could not imagine what they had been through and the pain they were suffering, as she extended her deepest condolences. She said she knew that the inquest had not resolved everything but it may have at least provided some of the answers that they had hoped for.

A coroner’s inquest is purely a fact-finding hearing and nobody is on trial. It cannot make any decisions as to civil or criminal liability and has a limited choice of potential conclusions or verdicts.

During this case, Magistrate Hernandez explained to the jury, as a result of the questions and concerns they had raised, that they were legally unable to find unlawful killing in a dangerous driving case. Reading the law and the precedent, she explained to jurors that the lack of intent makes it impossible to make such a finding. They were therefore left with only accident/misadventure, but Hernandez said such a verdict by no means trivialized the victim’s death.

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Category: Courts, Local News

Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What you are all not stating in here is that this gentleman, Philip, that we work with has a son to raise. Luckily his son was not in the car with them that dreadful night of the tragedy.
    The judge should throw this case out and order for this never to go back to court. The late wife, her family wants this in court as they are angry. They need to practice forgiveness and move on.
    This is all about revenge on the part of Philip’s in laws.
    Philip has a son to raise people. Pray for him to be able to be a good father and be in his son’s life. Everyone on this island need to take a chill pill.

    • Anonymous says:

      He shouldn’t be drinking and driving/speeding and instead lead by example to his son in the first place.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hello 8:00 a.m.
        I am sure you are perfect in every way too? Are you praying for the young people of this Island to grow up and see that they should not be foolish and drive drunk? All of us have done stupid things. So you going now to trash Philip knowing that he has a son to raise? So you and others want to be vindictive and hateful and want him behind bars? How is that going to help him raise his son?
        Pray for others because miracles happen every day. Find the best in people and give them another chance.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t pray because that does nothing. I lead by example which is why my children are doing well in school and socially.

    • Anonymous says:

      Having a son to to raise has no bearing on whether he should have consequences for allegedly killing his wife through his negligence. He should have thought of his son before allegedly driving drunk and like a maniac.

      CNS: Note that he has not been found guilty of anything and whether or not he was driving is a point of dispute, according to the crown.

  2. kaychick1 says:

    why dont they try to look into the pedestrian who got killed in lower valley for a ridiculous under the influence driver

    3 years and still no verdict.

  3. Anonymous says:

    but…it doesnt make sense. he was over the alcohol limit caused the crash by speeding how can he not be charged?

    CNS: The issue is the dispute over whether he was driving or not.

  4. Anon says:

    AB says:
    02/02/2021 at 8:43 pm
    I live in the immediate area and was one of the first on the scene. Both occupants were thrown out of the vehicle so there is no way of knowing who was really driving but Mr. Price is quite tall and for the condition of the roof/windshield damage that I saw, if he was driving, he’s beyond lucky because he should’ve had a broken neck or some serious head trauma.

  5. Anonymous says:

    All of this would probably have been moot, had they simply clicked their seatbelts.

    It’s mind blowing, the amount of Caribbean drivers who claim that wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle may lead them to become trapped, or to sustain worse injury.

    • Anonymous says:

      Like Americans should claim Trump eon the last election; people are stupid.

      • Anonymous says:

        Caribbean drivers who say that are no different from the idiots in America, Canada, (insert country of choice), that says the same thing. stupidity is unfortunately found everywhere a group of humans reside.

        • Anonymous says:

          But it’s more likely to be Caribbean drivers, as they have the worst systems of training and licensing robustness.

          It’s second nature in Europe to wear a seatbelt. The same cannot be said for Cayman, Jamaica etc. More people per capita die on Caribbean roads. There’s a correlation.

          • Anonymous says:

            Good driving habit, get in the car, start the car, then PUT ON YOUR SEAT BELT, that’s gives the car a little time for the oil to go through an oil the moving parts before putting it in gear and driving on.

          • Anonymous says:

            Um. The Philippines is not a caribbean island. Jus sayin dude.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just like a true dumper can’t type a sentence correctly?

        • Anonymous says:

          8:47 am, this is not an English Class, but just trying to find the truth about this sad, sad accident

      • Anonymous says:

        This is called being a Troll. You 8:21pm are a Troll.
        Bet you’re fun at parties.

      • Anonymous says:

        Trump derangement syndrome is a continuing proble.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It took 30 minutes for the ambulance….

  7. Anonymous says:

    So when is the Government bring in the experts??? Are is this a next one of “I have a rich parent so I can’t be touch.”

  8. East Ender. says:

    Finally a little bit of closure for Philip.

    • SB says:

      Screw him! What about closure for the family knowing he was drunk driving and speeding, taking her life??? With NO consequences or even a slap on the wrist? Free to continue driving drunk as he still does.

      • Anonymous says:

        Social media is a tremedously dangerous tool, from what you have written you obviously do not know him nor do you care to, you are manipulating social media for your own hateful desire.

        • SB says:

          I know BOTH the victim and him so sit there on your high horse until he takes another life drunk driving. One has to wonder what type of person defends taking someone’s life so carelessly with no consequences.

          • Anonymous says:

            They were BOTH drunk AF and they BOTH chose to get in the car.
            IMHO, they are BOTH responsible. And they BOTH should have been wearing the fkn seatbelts. ALL THE TIME!!!

            FYI – It will eventually become a habit and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

            • Anonymous says:

              Please tell me genius, how wearing seatbelts stops the crash. Or stops you from running innocent people over. Seatbelts would only maybe save the people speeding but the real issue is alcohol. Period. Let’s stop beating around the damn bush. Stop drinking and driving. Stop watching people drinking and driving. Stand up for something good for a change. Give a crap about something…

  9. Anonymous says:

    But yet cops are never around to catch these speeders.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It completely trivialized the death !
    What a disgrace. Speeding, drunk, kills someone …
    Absolute joke . Free so he can do it again and this time kill someone in another vehicle !!?.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘accident/misadventure’ isn’t a description, it’s a legal term, which was the only alternative to an accusation of murder.

      But wait, I’m sorry, you probably know much more about this case than the Magistrate who was actually there listening to all the evidence.

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