Four men and three women began hearing evidence on Monday about the death of Rowena Loveta Scott, 25, which occurred on March 11, 2015, when the Kia SUV she was driving hit a stone wall on Shamrock Road in Spotts.
The inquest was conducted by Queen’s Coroner Angelyn Hernandez, who called three expert witnesses and then the passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti explained that death was caused by blunt force trauma – Ms. Scott’s chest coming into contact with the steering wheel. Accident reconstructionists Colin Redden and Vincent Walters did not contradict each other on details of the accident. The vehicle, a 2014 model, was in good condition, having been serviced the month before.
The accident occurred just before 2:30 p.m. on a road that was in good condition. The speed limit was 40 mph and the car was traveling at 40 mph. It suddenly veered left, hit the sidewalk and continued up the curb into the wall. The vehicle was an automatic shift; the shift lever “was put in ‘Park’ milliseconds prior to impact,” Mr. Redden said.
Neither Ms. Scott nor her passenger was wearing a seat belt, Mr. Redden said, adding, “In my professional opinion, if the driver had been seat belted, she would have survived.”
Mr. Walters said there were three general reasons why a vehicle veers off course: an uneven road surface, unequal tire pressure, or rapid movement of steering. In this case, he said, the road surface was not considered uneven and there was no evidence that the left front tire had less air than the other tires.
The likely option was that “the driver lost focus during a moment of distraction,” then panicked when the left front tire brushed the curb and she overcorrected.
The passenger in Ms. Scott’s car was Joven Fuentes, now 28. He gave his statement to police after the accident and the coroner read it to the jury.
Mr. Fuentes described Ms. Scott as his girlfriend and mother of his two children. He said they began dating in 2009 and their relationship grew. “We had our share of ups and downs,” he said.
He explained that Ms. Scott had surgery earlier in the month and was not supposed to drive her car. She stayed with him and his mother and he drove Ms. Scott where she needed to go.
On the day of the accident, she wanted to drive and see how fit she was to do so. Mr. Fuentes said she drove with her right hand on the steering wheel and her left hand under her breast, which was where she had the surgery. They went to town and did some shopping. They were heading back to Savannah and she told him to look for her phone because she wanted to call her mother.
He said she looked down and he looked up and then they had hit the wall.
“I want to make it clear,” he said, “We were not having any fights and nothing was happening in the car. “ He added, “If I was driving she would be alive today. Everyone knows how much we loved each other.” He noted that he had given police free access to his own medical records from the collision.
Mr. Fuentes put his hand to his eyes and the coroner gave him time to sign his statement. “Our condolences,” the jury foreman told him.
The inquest was scheduled to last three days.