Driver was going 106mph

Before reaching a verdict of death by misadventure, a Coroner’s Jury heard that a car was travelling at 106 miles per hour before it left the road and crashed.

The incident occurred on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway on the night of 19 June 2004 and claimed the life of the driver, Franklin Banegas.

An autopsy report indicated that Mr. Banegas, 25, died of severe head injuries.

Queen’s Coroner Grace Donalds read into evidence some of the witness statements, while other witnesses gave evidence in person.

Among these was Mr. Vincent Walters, traffic accident reconstructionist for the Royal Cayman Islands Police.

Mr. Walters said he visited the scene, just abreast of the All Nations Church, shortly after the accident occurred. He explained there is a slight right hand bend in the road at this location.

When facing in the George Town direction he observed a yaw mark that started in the right lane, went across the left lane onto the left road shoulder, then onto the grass verge and down an embankment.

Mr. Walters explained that yaw means side slip. A yaw mark is a tyre mark made by a vehicle negotiating a curved path at a speed in excess of the critical curve speed for that bend. By measuring different aspects of the yaw mark he could determine the speed of the vehicle as it was side slipping.

Before it started to sideslip, the vehicle was doing a minimum of 106pmh, he said. When it left the road and went down the slope it picked up more speed and was doing about 110mph when it went airborne and hit the top of a chain link fence before crashing into heavy equipment parked on the other side.

The driver was on the wrong side of the road when the side slipping started.

In Mr. Walters’ opinion, the driver was trying to overtake and observed something coming from the opposite direction, so he tried to get back in his own lane but panicked and over-steered.

The critical curve speed at this slight bend was actually 107 mph, Mr. Walters calculated. That is, it could have been driven safely at 107mph.

Mr. Colin Redden, who examined the vehicle after the accident, said the tyres were in poor condition, with little tread on the surface. Travelling at high speed, they would have little traction – effectively lowering the critical (safe) speed.

The investigating officer said she found out that Mr. Banegas and his passengers had been at a nightclub and left around 11.45pm. A car overtook his vehicle and Mr. Banegas sped up to overtake it and then another vehicle in front of it. He tried to get back into his own lane in the area of the curve and ran off the road.

When the car hit the fence it had turned backwards and the pipe from the top of the fence went through a wheel well into the car. The pipe grazed the head of a passenger and went into the head of the driver, the officer said.

Mr. Banegas was pronounced dead about three hours later.

The jurors saw a lab report showing the deceased’s blood sample testing negative for alcohol or drugs. The only thing present was morphine given him by medical personnel after the accident.