Lack of sleep, alcohol and a damaged suspension all possible factors in fatal accident
Submitted by Howard B. Owens on November 27, 2012 - 6:46pm
As near as investigators can conclude, 25-year-old Quayshawn D. Smith was tired, drunk and driving a car with broken suspension April 22 when his 1997 white Buick Century crossed the center yellow line on Lewiston Road and smashed head-on into a minivan driven by a 74-year-old Oakfield resident.
Both Smith, of Mill Street, Medina, and Rosemary Calla, of South Main Street, were dead before the first emergency responders arrived.
While Sheriff's Office investigators draw no conclusions in a recently completed final report on the accident, the three proximate probable causes for the accident are contained in witness statements, observations by investigators and a medical examiner's report.
The ME's report took many months to complete, which is why the investigation wasn't closed until a week or so ago.
According to the Monroe County ME, Smith's BAC was between .08 and .12 (depending on whether the urine or blood sample is used) at the time of the crash. He also had marijuana in his system.
Two people from Geneseo told investigators that they had been with Smith the night before the accident drinking, first at local bars and later at an after-hours party at a residence.
Before going to the house party, Smith gave his car keys to a friend so he wouldn't drive, according to a statement.
Another more recent acquaintance in his statement said he obtained the keys prior to the party, but when he thought he was going to walk home, gave them to Smith's friend.
Smith's friend denied having the keys at the party.
The acquaintance ended up staying at the party and then got a ride home from Smith. Smith's friend was also a passenger in the car.
According to the acquaintance's statement, Smith was weaving while driving the two passengers back to the friend's house, but he attributed the weaving to Smith being tired, not drunk.
Back at the house, the three men were going to get something to eat, but nothing in the house appealed to them, so Smith decided to leave. Smith's friend offered him a place to sleep, but Smith declined and said he was OK to drive.
The friend said he didn't consider Smith drunk, just tired.
At 6:10 a.m., another Geneseo resident who was driving to Clarence reportedly saw a white sedan pulled over on Route 63 south of the Peoria Curve. The driver observed a man in dark clothing with a hoodie pulled over the side of his head and walking back toward the driver's side door as the witness passed.
There's no evidence this was the same white sedan driven by Smith, however, the Geneseo resident said the white sedan eventually caught up with him (he said he was driving 55 mph) and was weaving in the roadway, sometimes acting as if he wanted to pass, even over a double-yellow line, and the swerving back into the shoulder of the road.
At Route 20 and Route 63, the two cars went separate ways, with the white sedan continuing northbound on Route 63. The Geneseo resident said he intentionally delayed his left turn onto Route 20 so he could observe the driver of the white sedan, whom he described as a black male.
The Geneseo resident never called police until after he learned of a white sedan being invovlved in a double-fatal accident on Route 63.
The accident was reported at 6;46 a.m. in the area of 7936 Lewiston Road, Batavia.
Smith's car crossed the double-yellow line and the two cars hit head-on with the impact area being about 3/4 of the front of each vehicle.
The black box (EDR, for electronic data recorder) in the Buick indicated that Smith wasn't wearing a seat belt, but emergency responders all reported finding Smith strapped in by both a lap belt and shoulder harness. Sgt. William Scott who prepared the reported concluded the EDR reading was in error on that point.
The EDR recorded the Buick's speed at 52 mph just prior to impact.
Scott could not recover the data from the 2002 Mazda minivan driven by Calla because its software was incompatible with the software used by both the Sheriff's Office and State Police.
Using mathematical calculations, Scott concluded Calla's speed just prior to impact was 39.93 mph.
"It is possible that the driver's age or a recognition of an impending collision could have allowed the driver of the Mazda to reduce speed just prior to impact," Scott wrote in his report.
While Smith was over the legal limit for blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, and had been up all night, according to witnesses, the suspension on his car was also damaged.
It had a broken left rear trailing arm. It's the piece that connects the axle to the frame and keeps the axle from moving forward and backward.
Rust on the part indicates it had been broken many months, or longer, prior to the accident and that Smith had been driving the Buick in that condition for some time.
It was probably moving backward and forward two to three inches, according to Scott's report.
"This would have been enough to give the feeling that the vehicle's rear end was steering the car to one side or the other," Scott wrote.
Investigator William Ferrando obtained Smith's mobile phone from the vehicle and concluded Smith had been neither making a phone call nor texting prior to the accident.
The phone proved crucial to making a notification to a member of Smith's family.
While Smith was living in Medina at the time of the crash, not long before he lived in Brooklyn and his neighbors didn't know how to contact his family.
Ferrando was able to call Smith's aunt using Smith's contact list on the phone. The aunt at first didn't believe Ferrando was with law enforcement because Smith had once pulled a similar prank on her. The aunt told Ferrando that Smith's mother was deceased and she didn't know how to contact his father.
Smith had been enrolled in a carpentry program in Medina, but was employed at Brunner International at the time of the accident.
One of Calla's daughters was notified of her mother's passing that Sunday morning shortly after the accident by a uniformed deputy who went to her house in Oakfield.