Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crash Test Dummies


TOPIC POST
May 22, 2013

A few months ago I was thinking about that crack in the windshield of the Saturn. I looked around on FindMauraMurray.com, Topix and other places to get a sense for what people were thinking. The following summaries represent two common views:


[1] The damage to the Saturn, including the cracked windshield, is evidence of a prior crash and perhaps an indication that the car was being towed prior to the accident on 112. Related to this, Maura's head could not have hit that particular spot near the upper corner of the driver's side windshield in what probably was a fairly low speed impact, given the obstacle of the steering wheel and the deployment of the airbag.


[2] The crack is evidence that Maura suffered a head injury and thus might have been susceptible to collapsing not far outside the short distances away searched by authorities that night.  The Murrays, for instance, appear to feel this way.


This is a picture of the crack in the window (with red lines highlighting it that have been added to the picture) on MauraMurrayMissing.com.


Bear in mind two caveats about this picture. First, it was taken some unknown time after the accident and so the cracks - according to an auto body guy I know - could have spread out a little more as temperatures changed and wind or rain influenced the the windshield.  Second, whomever colored the crack's seams in the photo - to make them easier to see - had the ability, if they chose, to exaggerate or modify their appearance and thus the suggestive impact of the photo.  I have no reason to think this happened mind you, and I don't allege that it did.  Instead, simply in terms of prudently taking a neutral posture toward evidence, it is worth keeping in mind.

For what it is worth, the MauraMurrayMissing.com site states that the impact came from inside the car.  I myself cannot tell by looking at the picture.


For purposes of this post, I provide the photo for a limited and specific purpose: to show the general location the crack.


It appears that a first, I subscribed to an intuitive idea that is not true.  At first, I agreed with those who said her head never could above the steering wheel with enough velocity and energy to break the windshield.  But then I started thinking about suddenly being thrown forward at 35 miles an hour (assuming the car stopped short) and I was not so sure.  I talked it over with a engineer friend who has studied car-body crash dynamics. He said it as possible. He suggested that I watch some crash test dummy videos and think about how an airbag influences the vectors of force on the driver relative to the car in a crash.


So I did.  Check out this video, for example.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAyxWajd4-s


While not proving anything about Maura's case, it debunks the facial validity (see yesterday's update to the "My Sister" post) around the concept that her head could not have gotten up into that corner of the compartment under the windshield in a relatively slow speed impact.


While a different car, the video shows a fairly low impact speed (25 miles an hour) with a air bag deployment.  Look closely at the passenger compartment zoom in the slow motion replays.  Look where the head gets thrown: upward, above the steering wheel.  This is net influence on the body (the driver) of two forces: being thrown forward relative to the suddenly stopped car and the generally opposing force of the airbag in deployment.



In that context, consider too the possibility that Maura was drinking and perhaps intoxicated. If so, she may not have braced for impact in any way, even by tensing her body. Thus her body was even more likely to move a crash dummy's would. But even aside from that, there is so little reaction time in a stopped short accident, and the forces are so strong, that even bracing likely would not have made a difference in terms of where her body and head were thrown.

A few posters have alleged that the crack was deliberately created after the fact, perhaps as a part of a staging of an accident. I think this is prohibitively implausible. For one thing, a great deal of energy is required to crack a windshield. Up in the corner, above the steering wheel, in that hard to reach portion of the passenger compartment, you would have to swing a hammer to get outward pressure and cracking.  A hammer would leave a much different kind impact mark, more like a smashed hole or what you get when a rock hits your windshield on the highway.  Recreating that particular impact pattern as part of a staged accident scenario seems highly unlikely

Finally, I noticed in this video a kind of secondary upward thrust of the head toward the upper windshield.  This suggests the possibility of an injury to the back of Maura's head. That would tend to affect vision and spatial reasoning (i.e., perhaps making her more prone to getting confused and lost, as well as less able judge distances and dodge oncoming cars). Moreover, the onset of symptoms from head trauma is sometimes not immediate.  Symptoms can manifest minutes, hours, or even days later, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually.


Call to action: if you know auto crash dynamics, or you are an engineer, or you have some other type of insight or expertise, I am really to interested to hear what people think. I am willing to bet that someone in our group knows this topic well and I could use their information to post an update and put a finer point on this topic.

64 comments:

  1. You can do street view on the location of Maura's accident via google maps.....here is the link:
    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Route+112+and+bradley+hill+road,+Haverhill,+NH&hl=en&ll=44.119434,-71.936138&spn=0.000031,0.013711&sll=44.121052,-71.927758&sspn=0.003836,0.006856&t=h&hnear=New+Hampshire+112+%26+Bradley+Hill+Rd,+Woodsville,+New+Hampshire+03785&z=16&layer=c&cbll=44.119194,-71.936398&panoid=JykJXGQswAW9wNf2CoasTw&cbp=12,231.39,,0,2.81

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  2. A few years back I was witness to a car crash. I was first to get to one of the two cars. Upon opening the door there was one occupant a women who was not wearing her seat belt. She was unconscious and her body was over in the passenger seat. The airbag did go off. The windshield was broke in almost the same spot as Maura's car but on the other side. This girl was thrown over to the right side mainly because of not wearing her seat belt. This girl head took a very hard hit to the windshield. . Her head was bleeding and the force obviously knocked her out plus she had multiple serious injuries. If Maura's head hit that windshield and I believe it didn't she would not have been able to walk out of the car let alone walk a mile or more.

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    1. Thanks for the contribution.

      If you can, please put a name with your posts in the future so we can get to know you.

      John

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  3. The video link you provided is misleading. It is for a 2013 Dodge Dart. I just looked up the same test for several other cars and the motion of the body is not consistent with the Dart. The upward motion you describe is not seen in many other vehicles. I found a test at a faster speed for a 97/98/99 Saturn SL2 and there is no upward motion of the driver. Unfortunately I could not find any other test video for a 96, but I will keep looking. Your post is comparing apples to oranges. Maybe someone reading can provide better information but your video example is not compelling.

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    1. I'd like to see the tests of any Saturn. I could not find one.

      I think it is not misleading however. It is relevant and logical that an airbag both distributes

      I also have a source with law enforcement whose statement will form an update to this post at some point. He has seen many crashes like this and believes the video accurately represents the possibility of a head strike in the given location.

      There are a lot of factors at hand in any car in a given accident. There is a probability distribution around whether and where a head will hit. Even in a Saturn it could hit in the same of other location or not at all. Your "misleading" statement is therefore too strong.

      BUT, I'd like to see the videos you found as Saturn crashes would be interesting to see.

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    2. Sorry for not signing the previous post but here is the link to the video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIK84KJ7rD4

      The position of the seat, seat height, slope of the windshield, drivers height, driver weight, seat belt use, direction of impact and a hundred more factors will change how a person reacts in a crash. Misleading may be too harsh but in my mind, anything but the exact vehicle is misleading.

      BillNH

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    3. I disagree Bill. Given the myriad of factors (vector of force, location of the seat, angle of the seat, speed at impact, uneven forces affecting the deployment of the airbag, road surface angles, slippage against point of impact on impact, where the steering wheel is set, etc) the car model alone would hardly determine where you hit. This particularly given that the bottom of a car is flat and parallel with the ground and most windshields have a pretty standard angle to perform their aerodynamic function. So the model of the car only very little affect the relevant factors (in distance from the floor of the car to the windhield, while ALL the other variables are specific to the accident or the driver.

      In that context, what this video - along with the multiple comments from posters who have been in accidents, the other videos showing thrust of the head toward the windshield and the expert I talked to - is this: there is a probabilistic pattern of head impact points on a window. In 1000 accidents, some percentage of driver heads will hit and not hit the window. The ones that do form a pattern around a most likely point with outliers. That patterns might shift or contort a little bit given a different car, but with a myriad of other factors (see above) influencing where the head goes during an accident (as you said), the concept that is shown here is that Maura's head perfectly well could have hit the windshield at the point, it is not at all uncommon and therefore the argument that has been lurking that it COULD NOT have been her head is debunked. The simplest explanation for the crack, in fact, is that it came from her head.

      Does this make sense to you Bill? Am I overlooking something? Would like you and I and anyone else interested to come to consensus on this so we can leave it behind and move on. Feel strongly that my logic stands up to your reasonable and thoughtful objection. But please enlighten me if I am overlooking something and lets get this right among us all.

      John

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    4. We can consider it a consensus. I believe we are scrutinizing 2 sides of the same coin. I concede that the specific vehicle is not as important but only because there are so many other variables involved that the vehicle is just one piece of that puzzle. We could discuss it until we are old and gray and it still wont matter because we don't even know if she was wearing a seat belt. The physical action of a body in a crash is similar enough in all of the vehicles in the same class. What we are discussing is too detailed for the facts we have.

      BillNH

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  4. Where the heck is James Renner?????? I want the author of the book!!!!

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    1. You should email him. This comment is not relevant to the Maura Murray case.

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  5. First, is Maura believed to have been wearing a seat belt when the crash occurred? That would affect where, and at what speed her head and body would impact various parts of the interior of the car.

    Second, if Maura had the soft drink container--the one alleged to have contained alcohol--in her left hand and threw up her arm in a defensive gesture just before impact, it could have whacked the windshield in the upper left corner.

    Of course I can see this leading to yet another endless debate: was she right- or left-handed? Whichever it was, would/wouldn't she have been driving with her right/left hand on the wheel and holding the container with the other one . . . blah, blah, blah. In many cars, the cup holders are in the console between the front seats, so the driver would use his/her right hand to access the container, regardless of handedness.

    But if she'd been holding the container between her legs . . . more blah, blah, blah.

    Finally, was the container a can (metal) or a bottle (Glass or plastic)? I've read each of these advanced as a "fact." The material could lead to another six months of debate: Metal would have bent! Glass would have broken! Plastic would have retained impact marks!

    Maybe, when the airbag deflated, she simply hit her head on the inside of the windshield at just the right angle and speed to crack it. Sometimes a carrot is just a carrot.

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    1. I have no evidence about whether she was wearing a seatbelt. I simply don't know. If we knew for sure that her head made that crack it would suggest she was not, unless she was travelling much faster than that roadway is posted for.

      The poured out booze in the snow is an interesting issue as regards the accident. If she was holding a container with the cap off, you would expect to find booze in the car. I don't know whether that happened. If the cap was on, perhaps a crash hard enough to crack the windshield would have causes some leakage. Again, I don't know. But you raise an interesting topic. Do you know whether booze was found staining the inside of car?

      Your last statement is really insightful I think. I had not really though of that. But it seems like the same condensation of energy in motion at an impact point that lets a swift enough chop snap a piece of wood, as demonstrated by martial arts experts. At just the right angle and speed, etc.

      Good points all around. Many thanks.

      John

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    2. I'm pretty sure that in Renner's original post about the car (from way back at the start of the blog) he said he could clearly see red stains on the ceiling.

      You'll have to double check that, I would but I'm posting from my phone and its a pain in the ass to dig deep into the archive. But I seem to distinctly remember that. It was one of the first like 5 posts at the start of the blog, if you want to check it out.

      Jhonez

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    3. Yes, it's been stated repeatedly, from the beginning, that wine was splashed all over the interior of the Saturn, at least in the area of the front seat. That doesn't make it true, of course.

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    4. I don't know about any wine directly in the front seat area, and that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about Renner personally looking at the car and reporting seeing red stains on the ceiling.

      I don't see how that is really a questionable thing if Renner saw it with his own eyes.

      MAYBE it was something other than wine, but given the circumstances the odds of it being something else (except I guess maybe blood, depending on the size and exact location of the stains, which is unclear from the post) is extremely slim.

      Jhonez

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    5. SG, you said it. This is why I am reluctant to think too much about the wine. As you said, much is said but what is true is often unrelated. This case is a disproof that a lie often enough stated becomes the truth, because so many people are checking after every statement that it is hard to pull off deceptions or to make mistakes without back up. In the case of the wine, very little is known. Much of it comes from those PIs, which is fine, but a lot of their commentary in forums was simply statements, not referenced as sourced or as opinion, simply stated as fact.

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  6. When I was 18 a car driven by my friend lost control around a bend, crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming car. We were going around 30-35 MPH. I was not wearing my seat belt.

    I hit my head on the windshield creating a crack very similar in nature and location (relative to the passenger side of course) to the one on the Murray Saturn. I was never formally examined by a doctor afterward but I'm pretty sure I had a mild concussion as I recall being somewhat groggy/loopy for the remainder of the day. -AV

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    1. Thanks for this contribution AV. When you think of the grogginess that can come even with a minor head hit combined with the possibility of alcohol, it suggest the possibility of some disorientation at some point, perhaps.

      John

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  7. Previously I've sent a couple of comments regarding both the final crash and the a possible previous crash the Saturn could have taken part in.

    First, about the visible damage on windshield; i've done a little research with the car mechanics and some picture search for "human - vehicle collision" on google, the results are pretty similar to the Saturn. But before getting deep into the human-vehicle collision question (or if the crack is a result of head crash from the inside or not), i strongly believe a fact checker should explore the cause of other visible damage on the car by using a crash simulator software. Because any of the damage on the car is not consistant with the police reports and a snow boulder crash as people (and James) believe that happened. Here is what i've written on this blog before:
    July 31, 2012 at 3:11 PM - "...2- How did the crash happen? Considering there are no direct damage neither on the front passenger side nor the rear driver side (in case of a 180 degrees spin before hitting the snow boulder). Is it possible she was in fact driving westward?"
    July 29, 2012 at 3:50 PM- "...1- A 120 degrees jump of the rear end of the car/tires is near impossible considering the car crashing into a snow boulder. I have seen couple of snow boulder crashes, snow absorbs the energy of the 30 miles speed easily.
    2- Police should have indicated the skid marks (a 120 degrees arc created by the skid of the read tires) if there were any. There are no skidmarks shown on the report.
    3- Even if the road conditions caused the almost impossible skid after the right side contacted the snow boulder, there should have been damage on the passenger side front corner not the driver side corner."

    After writing those comments i've done a small virtual experiment with the software called VCrash 3.0 using the google maps terrain and road info. I wasnt able to create a collision which could possible cause a similar damage on the car. I have even tried cutting through the previous corner although the 1+ meter snow was still intact on some videos which were taken couple of days after the incident.

    So i think it is imperative that you have to get someone to create the final accident on a professional collision software to see if the damage the Saturn is reproducible with the given theory - which i highly doubt. (The damage on the front driver's side -and almost nothing elsewhere- of the Saturn raises a lot of flags, i know there is an other "previous corner" theory but that is in no way consistant with the final position and bearing of the car.)

    2nd please check these pictures and see how identical body damage a pedestrian crash causes to the car body:
    http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/galleries/2009/feb/25/car-pedestrian-accident-crestline/
    http://www.chinasmack.com/2009/stories/street-racing-rich-kid-kills-pedestrian-netizens-outraged.html
    http://www.accidentanalysis.net/pedestrian.htm
    http://news.stv.tv/highlands-islands/293181-pedestrian-dies-in-car-crash/

    If i had to bet all of my money on a theory i would bet it on the "there was no boulder crash" or "the crash was staged" options.

    Keep up with the great work Mr. Green.
    Regards

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    1. Agreed. She hit something that caused damage to the headlight area but not the bumper below. Geez you don't suppose someone passed her, got in front of her, jacked on the brakes, waited for her to hit the rear and then sped off. And if that vehicle had a trailer hitch on the back of it the damage would line up quite well.

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    2. Clearly this is the only way to accurately answer these questions. All of our anecdotal "evidence" is compelling at the moment we read it, but without a sophisticated simulation, it's all possible or not and tells us nothing about Maura's accident. It would be great if James were to reach out to someone who could do this.

      Jamison

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    3. To Maxx:

      Many thanks. That is a very illuminating analysis. I have on my agenda a post called "crash dynamics." I have written it yet because I lack the expertise. I have copied your message along with the statement by that EMT about what he thought happened. I am working to create a dossier, then hand it over to someone who really understands the physics of crash and ask them to give me a statement.

      Could that person be you? If not, do you know somebody or an organization I might contact to ask for this help? Could you email about this at John88Green@yahoo.com?

      Best regards,

      John

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    4. To Jamison and the anonymous poster ...

      My apologies, I should have directed my last comment to you also. Jamison, you said it spot on ... we have to enlist an expert for this one. If anyone's got suggestions about where I might find that expert, let me know. Otherwise my plan is to start with some former clients of mine at the U.S Department of Transportation as well as a someone I used to work for who does a lot of work for DOT and the Volpe Center.

      John

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  8. About the crash video on Youtube: the head loses the forward momentum at the instance it starts moving upwards thus towards the upper corner of the windshield. I do not think it is likely that this can cause a crack. Additionally, looking at the the previous photos of the Saturn, it is really hard to see a crack on the windshield.

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  9. It would help if you would relate your concern about the cracked windshield to the larger picture of Maura's disappearance. As it is, this micro-matter doesn't seem to connect to anything of great importance. Operative word "seem." Obviously none of us knows what may turn out to have been a critical--missed--clue, even something small and apparently insignificant such as the windshield, but I'd like to know where this fits in your theory or theories about the case.

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    1. Fair enough. I think the possibility of her become disoriented due to the effects of a head injury - particularly if the booze was in her system - is really relevant. In fact, just tonight, I was talking with a teammate of hers from UMASS who has posted her (not Kate) who said that if she had to guess, Maura got disoriented but far enough away that she was outside the search radius. She made a strange choice about seeking refuge, maybe being confused, and got herself put somewhere where she died of exposure and has not been found. Maybe like an abandoned shack in the woods off the road, further away from the scene than has been checked. I know when I make my next visit up there, I am going to look around starting at 5 miles away from the scene for where she might have wondered when confused.

      I hope that helps.

      Your point is well taken and I will make a point of trying to establish that better in posts.

      John

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  10. Just quickly, as I don't have much time now. I thought about the cracks in the windscreen a while back. As an engineer, my opinion is that the head could quite possibly hit the top of the windscreen. It depends on the relative positions of objects and the nature of the crash, but I can well imagine it happening.

    When considering the severity of a 35 mph crash, it's worth considering that you'd hit the ground at approximately that speed if you jumped off a 40 ft building. There's plenty of potential for injury there.

    An alternative possibility is that a substantial loose object in the car broke the windscreen, but I find this less likely than either the head theory or the later damage.

    Chris

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    1. These are great points Chris, as always. Thanks again. Please see my comments just above about trying to prepare a dossier of info and reel in an expert to comment on this topic for us. Could you be the expert? Do you have ideas of someone to talk to. Again, see my responses above?

      John

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  11. You can crack or break a windshield with a tap using a spark plug. Not saying that's what happened, but it's not hard at all.

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    1. Well said. Since posting this I have seen information that windshields can crack in surprising ways, sometimes with less apparent force than intuitively seems necessary.

      Thanks for the comment.

      John

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  12. How sad this post makes me. She really did hit herself badly, didn't she? Somebody tried to break the windshield of our old car, but didn't succeed and left a crack - I can imagine how hard a hit it takes to create as many cracks as this. There are good reasons why they always keep you for observation at the hospital after your head's been involved in an accident, even though there might not be any obvious symptoms. It seems Maura was maybe not at all alright after the crash.

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    1. It made me sad too watching it and imaging that poor troubled kid hitting the windshield like that and then getting out of the car with a lot obviously on her mind possibly wondering what the hell to do.

      I also agree with your comment about being kept for observation in a hospital. The symptoms of a serious concussion sometimes do not immediately manifest. People have been known to get confused sometimes later.

      Interestingly, your comment contrasts the last one and together they illuminate an important principle. The dynamics and physics involved are influenced by a lot factors. Apparent or assumed force may correspond to harder or softer head hits given the exact mix of influences (angles, speeds, relative positions at impact, etc) of a given impact.

      By the way, stay tuned for a follow up post to this one based on a law enforcement source who added some interesting insights.

      John

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  13. I have researched and found that airbags often cause cracks in windshields. However, I think it was possible Maura hit her head, because it was reported her car went into a ditch (do not know how deep). The angle of the car could have projected her into the top of the windsheild if the ditch was deep enough. She would have gone straight into the top of the windshield as the vehicle dived down a bit into the ditch when she hit the snowbank.

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    1. Good point. A law enforcement told us this too. In fact, it might be you for all I know. You said it well.

      John

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  14. Abductions can happen within a matter of seconds. What has always stuck with me is seeing the video of Kelsey Smith being abducted from a Target parking lot. It took 7 seconds!!!

    What are the possibilities about what happened to Maura?
    1. Maura died accidentally (exposure, wild animal, hit and run accident).
    2. Maura left the accident scene and later committed suicide.
    3. Maura was abducted and was either murdered or is still being held.
    4. Maura disappeared willingly and is living under the radar somewhere.

    What probability we assign to each of those possibilities is open to debate, but I agree that the fact that Maura is gone means there's a much higher probability that she was abducted than there is for a random woman.

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    1. Well said, thanks for the comment.

      John

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  15. ....and... I don't think anyone has ever tried to figure out the reason the passenger side's air bag was also deployed...?

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    1. The Saturn did not have a seat pressure switch like more modern cars do. Both bags deploy on purpose.

      BillNH

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    2. It deploys because of the impact, not because there is a passenger in the seat.

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    3. Thank you very much BillNH and Marie. I appreciate your response!

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    4. Sounds like Bill and Marie have good knowledge of this, but I am going to add this to the questions for the expert I procure to fashion a post for us.

      Thanks for the comments.

      John

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    5. Please see Bill's later post on this.

      I assume that it costs something to have your air bag repackaged, so in a minor accident it saves money if only the driver's side inflates if there is not passenger. Thus, there would have been some demand out there for a system that recognized which seats were occupied.

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  16. Years ago I was in a car accident where I rearended another car. I had time to slam on the breaks but the impact through me forward and cracked the window similarly to the crack on Maura's car. The top of my head scraped the hook that holds up the visor and took a chunk of hair with it. I did not require hospitlization and walked away with a scrape and headache. I find it very plausible Maura was thrown forward enough to break the window after running off the road.

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    1. Thanks for this comment and example. It is certainly illustrative.

      You raise another great issue that my law enforcement source also mentioned. If head cracked the windshield, at least a little hair or blood should be present. Was the car checked for this by LE? I don't know. I believe the car was not secured as evidence at first, so it is hard to tell. This merits further investigation.

      John

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    2. I would say that at least a little hair or blood "might" be present.

      I'm not sure the Saturn was EVER secured as evidence, never mind "at first." As I recall, LE didn't consider foul play to be a possibility for quite some time and, as I've said before, if the car sat behind the tow garage unlocked and unattended by LE for even a brief period of time, it would be considered contaminated for evidentiary purposes, since anyone could have got inside and done/taken/rearranged any number of things.

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    3. Very good point Spruce Goose. For all we know, the tow driver who for some reason removed the rag in the tailpipe and did his own investigation on it (asking Fred if it all good and hearing that it was), might have washed the car as a favor to the Murrays. And like you said, somebody could have walked up to it and cleaned the glass. THere are certainly people out there who at one time argued hard that it was silly to think Maura's head caused the crack. Whether it did or not, it is not at all a silly thesis.

      Thanks again ... this is why I am glad you are here.

      John

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  17. Anonymous 7:31, Saturns in those days (as well as most other cars) had airbags that did not operate independantly of each other. IF one went off they both went off, regardless of whether or not there was someone in the passenger seat.

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    1. Thanks for this comment. You and others seem to have good knowledge of this. Without doubting it at all, if you know a reference source I can rely on I'd like to "book" that as a conclusion.

      Best regards,

      John

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    2. I have been unable to find any credible source to say that both airbags deploy automatically even when there is no front seat passenger. Closest I have come was this Saturn forum discussing how to disable the passenger side bag to stop it from deploying when there is no front seat passenger. I will keep trying to find the right search parameter to get the answer I am looking for.

      http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20433

      BillNH

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    3. This would be obviously helpful to know to a certainty Bill. Many thanks for running it down. One suggestion: there might have been guidance from a DOT office or program (or the Volpe Center) about this and/or there might have been legislation guiding implementation that would help determine if the airbag specs for a 96 Saturn. Also, accident reports could help.

      John

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  18. I rearended a car once. I was not wearing a seatbelt and my windshield looked exactly like that. Dont know if that is any help, but it appears to be from her head for sure and no seatbelt.

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    1. Thank you. You are one of more than a few folks in email and here who have related personal experiences that comport with Maura's windshield condition suggesting a head strike. If you have a chance, could you email me (if you feel comfortable disclosing the info) and tell me how you felt in terms of wooziness afterward? I am at John88Green@yahoo.com

      Many thanks,

      John

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    2. John,
      No wooziness at all actually, I was really 100% fine after it. Wasnt really driving fast though, but the fact that my seatbelt wasnt on made hitting the windshield inevitable.

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  19. Oh yeah...and I was fine...walking and talking afterwards...no concussion or anything.

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  20. When I was 17, I was in an accident when my friend rear ended a truck. Conditions were snowy the hill is steep and I'm not wearing a seatbelt. We were not going more than 15 miles per hour when our car slid into this truck. The driver was wearing a seatbelt I was not and when we inpacted I ended up hitting the windshield with my head. For the first 5 minutes I thought I was fine. I had called my mother but mid conversation this is where I am told I had passed out. I had died twice in the helicopter and once at the hospital. I was an extremely athletic girl with no conditions known. At 15 miles per hour my head had managed to spider the windshield on my side.

    That was 11 years ago I'm 28 years old now and I find myself completely enthralled with the story. My whole life I grew up watching such shows as forensic Files it and being obsessed with murders and mysteries. The story of this girl has me completely mind boggled.

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    1. Thanks for this contribution. The personal stories of bloggers show the feasibility of Maura suffering a head injury due to contact with the windshield. In addition, I personally find it interesting that - as one poster pointe out - a 35 mile an hour dead stop collision brings the force on your body of falling from a 40 foot tall building. As in your case, she easily could have been concussed from only a glancing blow (given the airbags) and not felt the effects for some time.

      John

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    2. Since I wrote that comment, I've done some reading about the laminated glass used for car windscreens. One design consideration is how likely the glass is to cause a head injury. Based on what I read, and the fact that it wouldn't have been a dead-stop collision, I'm not so sure that a severe head injury is likely. Did you get my e-mail? One of the things in the e-mail was a link to this video, which shows the sort of impact needed to make a spider crack in the glass:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vame9UNFA7o

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  21. First off this case blows my mind!!!
    I follow the blog daily.

    I found myself watching the Disappeared episode yet again today on Netflix.

    I thought to myself while watching today...
    What if the email she sent to her professors, work etc. about there being a death in her family was actually her communicating her thoughts about possibly committing suicide. That it would be her own death.

    I purchased the book Not Without Peril.
    Read and enjoyed it.
    So I got to thinking what if she was in some kind of frantic/depressed state and was somehow trying to live out one of stories in the book. Someone who could endure the harsh elements and survive or perish as many of the stories in the book entail.

    Just some random thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for the comments Anonymous.

      You know, I read Not Without Peril while road tripping and hiking in NH, after I first came across Maura's case literally by approaching the blue ribbon on 112. I thought the book was great but it does not really yield and insight into Maura's case. Except possibly this. Regardless of what the Murray's have said about it being her favorite book, it seems like an odd fit with the other possessions in the car and what little we know about the terms of her departure. I think a staging scenario is unlikely, but it would be in interesting to have that particular book in the car if you were staging the accident.

      John

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    2. For what I understand Maura's e mail to her professors stated " there was a family emergency" not a family death. Please correct me if I am wrong.

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  22. I believe the saturn was pulled or somehow towed to the location where it was found/ The damage being from another accident somewhere else/ i believe Maura is living as a dif name and that Fred knows much more. There is no reason for Fred to tell a story that Maura wrecked his car/ Is it then, a coincedence that Maura wrecks her own car? I don't believe anything Fred says. Whats up w billys ma? Shes is too weird. The whole case makes no sense unless you take all the hearsay out of it, then it looks like Maura is alive and living somewhere else to this day.

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  23. It appears to me that she hit a deer. The location, and speed and the lack of damage to bottom half in comparison to the top half looks exactly like most lower impact deer accidents on smaller vehicles. I had similar damage to my dodge neon in the 90's, and the deer was completely unscathed. Its February, dark and wooded on her drivers side. It's exactly the type of thing that hinders a persons plans and disables a vehicle. Just google small car deer accidents, and it makes the same damage with the bumper unscathed and the hood pushed up in that manner. A leg could easily damage the windshield, and given the conditions of being exposed to hot/cold weather the glass could have expanded worsening the crack over the years.

    Examples:
    http://www.bodyshopzone.com/archives/collision/deer_hit/Subaru_2007/cxcdas05a_07_subaru_deer_hit.jpg
    http://www.car-accidents.com/pics/1-Car%20Pics-9-2004/11-19-04.jpg

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  24. I am an auto mechanic with 15 years experience. I agree with the theory that the damage on the front end was not caused by a collision with a snow bank unless the temperature was extremely cold and the banks were rock hard. By all accounts this was not the case, the temp was just below freezing and this would leave the snow with a heavy, gravel-like consistency. This would certainly cause some damage but not the type we see on the hood of the car. The fender panel and bumper are plastic and can flex and bend without cracking or denting so we don't get much info from those areas.

    I live in Southern Quebec and have dealt with many customer cars which have been involved in common winter accidents such as this. Rarely do I see damage similar to what is seen on Maura's Saturn due to a snow bank collision. Unless she was traveling at a high rate of speed and struck the inside (driver's side) corner of a very frozen bank I would suspect the damage occurred at another location, a deer or other object was struck or another vehicle was involved. How fast was she reportedly traveling?

    Another red flag is the deployment of the airbags. Generally, two conditions must be met for an airbag to deploy. First, the vehicle must be moving quickly enough at impact to trigger a collision sensor AND the vehicle must then decelerate quickly enough to then trigger the deployment of the airbag. An accelerometer is used to verify both conditions. This helps prevents deployment if, let's say for example, someone hits the bumper of the car with a baseball bat. The airbag shouldn't deploy. I'm not an engineer however, so this is simply my understanding of the theory. There is always the possibility of the airbags deploying unexpectedly as well. Technology is certainly not perfect and this could be an example of that.

    Assuming no flat tires, it's my opinion that the car could have been driven in the condition it was in when found.

    Why does it appear in the photos as if the airbag has been stuffed back into the cavity in the steering wheel? Or has it been cut off for some reason? If so, why?

    Bottom line, if a client arrives at my shop with a vehicle in the condition of that Saturn, although possible, I would be very skeptical that the damage was caused by a simple one car snow bank collision.

    Ben

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    1. I've been wondering about the airbag,too. I don't understand why that would have been done unless deployment happened previously. Maura' s time at West Point would have given her all the skills needed to retold and stuff the airbag back into its space. Does anyone know anything about this?

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