Jury finds driver’s death was by misadventure

Court hears of difficulties finding witnesses to give statements

A Coroner’s Court jury returned a verdict of misadventure Tuesday after hearing evidence surrounding the death of Rowena Loveta Scott, 25, which occurred on the afternoon of March 11, 2015.

Ms. Scott was the driver of a 2014 Kia SUV that hit a wall on Shamrock Road. The jury heard that she was driving at the speed limit, 40 mph, but was not wearing a seat belt at the time. The physical cause of death was transection of her aorta, the main vessel carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body, the court heard.

Accident reconstructionist Colin Redden had told the court that, even at 30 mph, the impact of the driver’s chest coming into contact with the steering wheel would have the force of three tons.

The police officer investigating the matter, Athelston Watts, gave the court a detailed account of his efforts to collate information regarding the accident. One tip was about a woman who was a possible witness. Mr. Watts went to the church she was known to attend but did not find her. He phoned the pastor several times, but was unable to make contact.

Mr. Watts said he “tried to tie up all the loose ends – anything that came up.” He said it came up that there may have been some disagreement between Ms. Scott and Joven Fuentes, who was a passenger in her car at the time of the accident. On that basis, he inquired at the two locations they had gone to before their return trip to Savannah. He inquired about CCTV footage at those places, but never got any.

Mr. Watts also referred to what he said he had been told about possible evidence from Ernesto Arteaga-Bodden, the EMT who tended to Mr. Fuentes at the crash scene.

Mr. Bodden said he was instructed on his arrival to attend to Mr. Fuentes who was lying on the ground and seemed to be in poor condition. He was barely conscious and moaning in pain. Mr. Bodden believed that Mr. Fuentes had sustained a shattered pelvis. His immediate concern was to maintain a clear airway for the victim and keep his neck and backbone aligned.

Mr. Bodden said he heard someone say, “He already was hitting her. He did not have to grab the steering wheel.” He saw two females and a male, but he did not know them. He could not say which woman made the comment and he had to concentrate on his duty. When a police officer arrived, and after a collar had been placed on the injured man, Mr. Bodden told the officer that people behind the barricade had made a comment and maybe the officer could take a statement. Later, the officer came to the hospital and asked if he could identify the people, but he couldn’t.

As previously reported, Mr. Fuentes attended the inquest when his statement was read into evidence. He said he and Ms. Scott had begun dating in 2009. She had surgery recently and was not supposed to drive, so he had been driving her to her appointments. On the day of the accident, however, she wanted to see how fit she was to drive. She drove with one hand, with her other arm under her breast, which was where she had the surgery. She told him to look for her cellphone because she wanted to call her mother. That was when the accident occurred. They were not having a fight and nothing happened in the car, he said.

On Tuesday, Queen’s Coroner Angelyn Hernandez read the statements of witnesses who did not attend in person. Two of them said they spoke to Mr. Fuentes and he referred to the woman in the car as his wife.

A woman said she saw a cellphone on the floor of the car behind the front seat; its screen was smashed.

The coroner also read the statement of Carol Ann Scott, mother of the deceased. She described Rowena as a child who loved going to school and being with family. She was popular and graduated high school with eight passes. Mrs. Scott detailed her daughter’s employment history and adult relationships.

In her instructions to jurors, the coroner reminded them to consider only the evidence and not pay attention to rumors. The Coroners Law provided that, if they considered they did not have enough evidence to reach a conclusion, they could return an open verdict.