Originally created 03/19/03

Black box gives case in deadly car crash



BEAUFORT - Officers, experts and witnesses will take the stand in a reckless homicide trial this week, but the most unique testimony is expected to come today - from the defendant's own truck.

Andrew Cassels, 33, of Hilton Head Island, is charged with reckless homicide in the Aug. 11, 2001, death of 45-year-old Alfred Young. A jury of six men and six women was selected Monday to hear the case in Beaufort County General Sessions Court.

Mr. Young died after Mr. Cassels' pickup allegedly crashed head-on into Mr. Young's car on Marshland Road near the Cross Island Parkway.

In the first case of its kind in South Carolina, Assistant Solicitor Duffie Stone told jurors that a black box from Mr. Cassels' 2000 Chevy Silverado pickup will tell them the story behind the crash.

Like the black boxes found in airplanes and trains, the event-data recorders installed in many cars and trucks made in recent years by General Motors record critical data in the seconds leading up to a crash, Mr. Stone said.

When an airbag deploys on impact, all of that information is captured.

"The black box told us exactly what everybody else told us," Mr. Stone said.

Beginning five seconds before the crash, it showed Mr. Cassels driving 98 mph, with the throttle at 100 percent, Mr. Stone said.

"Mr. Cassels had his foot all the way on the accelerator," he said. "Andrew Cassels was not only driving reckless. He defined it."

Other drivers will testify that they saw Mr. Cassels driving nearly twice the legal speed limit of 45 mph just before the crash, and a South Carolina Highway Patrol team who recreated the accident estimated his speed between 82 mph and 96 mph, Mr. Stone said.

A Highway Patrol trooper testified that Mr. Cassels was driving east when he crossed into the westbound lane of Marshland Road and struck Mr. Young's car. Large photographs shown to the jury showed Mr. Cassels' red pickup, its front buckled.

Mr. Young's Lexus was demolished.