Two years ago, a car smashed into a tree on Hindmarsh Drive in Canberra’s south.
Three lanes of the busy road were closed for hours as police painstakingly assessed the scene to work out what had happened.
That day in December 2019 has stayed with ACT Policing collision investigator Senior Constable Nathan Smorhum.
“We would have been here probably five hours before leaving and going up to the hospital after that,” he said.
“And it’s a tiring, just an exhausting, process to go through making sure that you have everything.”
The 28-year old man who was behind the wheel died a few days later.
Senior Constable Smorhum said the impact of deaths like this on families motivated him to retrieve as many details from a crash scene as possible.
“That’s the whole reason I do this job,” he said.
“It’s not about doing the calculations or coming out to the scenes or putting people before the court — that’s a by-product, that’s an administration thing that gets done.
Smart scanner frees up time to support victims
Canberra’s police recently gained new technology that helps them gather the information they need in half the time, and without needing to disrupt the capital’s roads for hours.
Using a forensic imaging system, police can create a three-dimensional model of a crash scene in incredible detail.
Mounted on a tripod, the system makes a 360-degree scan of the scene, capturing hundreds of images and mapping millions of data points.
Police can do this without even stopping traffic, as the technology recognises extraneous information — such as passing vehicles — and can later remove it.
Investigators can then analyse this digital reconstruction — examining factors like speed or road conditions — to work out what caused the crash.
“What we can do now is, the minute we arrive on the scene, set up the scanner [and] do the scan for two hours or so while we’re still walking through the scene, we’re still collecting things and taking our photos,” Senior Constable Smorhum said.
“We can produce a 30-40 page document explaining how a collision happened and, to go along with that, we can produce a 30-second video clip of what the collision looked like from any angle we want.”
Returning to the scene of the 2019 crash to rescan it with the new system, Senior Constable Smorhum said the difference in time and detail was remarkable.
“Had we had this system when I was at the scene originally, instead of being here for five hours, we would have been here for about two-and-a-half,” he said.
“They wouldn’t have been up there not knowing what’s going on at the scene or what’s going to happen from there on out.”