Driver exceeded critical speed of 91 mph, jury hears

Inquest results in verdict of misadventure after single-car crash

The death of Herman Arnis Byrd, 42, was determined to be by misadventure, a Coroner’s Jury decided last week. 

Mr. Byrd was the driver and only occupant of a vehicle that went off the road in East End and crashed into several trees on the night of 27 January 2012. 

Accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters told the court that he had examined the scene. He said the driver had negotiated a slight right-hand bend, lost control and went off the roadway.  

Explaining the calculations involved, Mr. Walters said the critical speed for that right-hand bend was 91 miles per hour. The critical speed is the maximum at which a vehicle can safely negotiate a bend without side-slipping or going off the road. The speed limit in that area is 50 mph. 

Having gone off the road, Mr. Walters continued, the driver attempted to get back on the roadway; he oversteered and the car rotated 180 degrees, leaving multiple tyre marks with striations across the road. 

The vehicle’s first impact was with a utility pole, then a coconut tree, then three almond trees – which were knocked flat – and then two more coconut trees. 

Mr. Walters said the final impact caused a rapid reduction in speed and exerted an excessive force on the back of the driver’s seat. This resulted in Mr. Byrd’s body being ejected backward and his head collided with the back seat. 

An autopsy report presented by pathologist Shravana Jyoti stated that the physical cause of death was fracture dislocation of two vertebrae in the neck along with a complete tear and transection of the spinal cord in that area. There were also internal chest injuries due to front impact trauma. 

A toxicology report showed an alcohol-in-blood level of .109. The legal limit for driving in Cayman is .100. 

Other evidence called by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik included a police officer who said he was travelling east in a patrol car in the vicinity of Lovers Wall when he and his partner saw two cars speeding toward them. The cars appeared to slow, then picked up speed again, passing the patrol car at up to 80mph. A white vehicle was in front and a dark vehicle in the rear. 

The officer said he activated the lights and siren while his partner turned the vehicle around. They wanted to stop the drivers and speak to them. 

After losing sight of the vehicles briefly, and reaching the vicinity of 848 Sea View Road, they observed that the dark vehicle had crashed. 

Joseph Woods Jr., a motorist, said he heard a police siren and pulled over. Ahead he could see a dark car speeding; it appeared to be running from police. He said he saw the car wobble as it made a slight bend. 

When the police car passed and he resumed driving he saw the dark car had crashed. In his view, the police were not pressuring the car; they were a distance behind it, he said. 

Vehicle examiner Collin Redden examined the car and found no evidence any other vehicle was involved in the accident. 

He examined the police vehicle for contact damages or paint transfer and found none.  


The jury had access to a series of photographs of the scene at night and during the day; there were also photos of the police car from all sides, so they could see for themselves whether there was any sign of damage or transfer.  

Examination of the seat belt indicated it was not being worn at the time of the crash. 

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