Reconstruction of a Power Line Wire Strike Event

May 13, 2016

A television news van operator and a news reporter, (the plaintiff in this case) were late arrivals to cover a public service event put on by the local police department. Upon arrival, the news van carrying the reporter has limited options for parking next to the other previously assembled television crews. In an attempt to get closer to the event they were covering, the driver of the van knowingly parks on the sidewalk, directly below clearly visible power lines. As the reporter inside the van makes last minute preparations so she could begin covering the event, the driver of the van walks around to the back of the vehicle and begins raising the transmission antenna, a telescoping pole with a transmitter on top weighing approximately 400 pounds. The operator testified that she looked up, saw the power lines and determined that the antenna could be safely raised adjacent to the lines without striking them. The operator stated she watched the antenna rise for about 10 feet of its eventual 44 foot extension and visually confirms that the antenna will rise safely, walking away from the still ascending antenna to perform other tasks.

Unfortunately for the reporter inside the van, the antenna does make contact with the power lines, electrifying the van and quickly causing a short circuit. A small explosion ensues, catching the hydraulic fluid of the antenna on fire, filling the electrified van with acrid smoke and fumes. In an effort to escape from the van, the reporter opens the door, places a foot on the ground while still holding onto the van, thus completing the circuit. She suffers massive injuries requiring multiple amputations as the current flowed through her into the ground.

PSI was asked by the defense attorney to reconstruct the view the operator had of the power lines, with the intention of placing the viewer and trier of fact in in the operator’s position and providing a simulation of the visual information that was available to the operator - warning against raising the antenna. In order to do this with sufficient fidelity for the court to allow the presentation of the animated reconstructed view to the jury, PSI had to reconstruct each aspect of the event and compare the results to the physical evidence, proving they were effectively the same. In order to accomplish the reconstruction and validate the results, PSI needed to recreate each piece of the physical environment and evidence in 3D.

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Click Below to Watch a Composite Video of the Analysis and Animation


Craig Fries


Craig Fries is the Founder and President of Precision Simulations, Inc., the foremost forensic analysis and animation firm in the US. In this role he has created or directed over 1,000 3D forensic animations for use in criminal and civil litigation and has maintained a 100% record of non-exclusion at trial. As a pioneer in the field of forensic laser scanning, Craig created the first 3D animation based upon laser scan data ever admitted at trial in the US, and has been at the forefront of the use of the technology in homicide and accident investigation since.

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