Ask Trooper Steve: Here’s why fatal crash investigations take so long

Trooper Steve answers viewer questions.

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answers viewer questions and shares tips about the rules of the road, helping Central Florida residents become better drivers by being better educated.

The most recent question received by Trooper Steve was, “Why does it take such a lengthy amount of time to investigate a fatal crash?”

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A fatal crash investigation can take a while to complete, leaving roadways shut down for a long period of time.

“I preach to have patience all the time, but what’s actually happening during this process when the road is closed?” Trooper Steve said. “I’m going to do my best to break it down for you. You must remember there is a difference between a normal crash investigation and a crash investigation involving death.”

The initial trooper or officer to arrive at a scene would be assigned as the crash investigator. If it is determined that fatalities are involved, a traffic homicide investigator would be assigned.

“Traffic Homicide Investigators or THI are not your routine patrol officers, meaning that these specialized units would have to be notified of the situation and then respond either from their home if the crash occurs outside of their hours or from the office,” Trooper Steve said. “These investigators are always involved in their cases and if they’re not actively working a scene, then they are diligently working from the office.”

Once the scene has been completely shut down and traffic homicide has been notified, the preservation of evidence and separation of witnesses takes place.

“During this process, every piece of evidence is photographed and every witness is interviewed,” he said. “It seems every career field has those individuals that truly enjoy mathematics in some way. These are the THI of any agency. Once they arrive on scene, they will begin to take measurements of everything involved. They will also conduct a scan of the scene with advanced equipment. This allows the investigators to re-create a scene to show exactly how the crash occurred and how the cause of death happened.”

Finally, the last phase is the notification of the medical examiner and possibly the calling of fire rescue to come back out to the scene.

“The medical examiner will take their own pictures of the scene,” Trooper Steve said. “Fire rescue would respond back out for what we call a washdown to remove any lingering debris from the scene. True attention to detail is what makes up a great Traffic Homicide Unit. They take it very personal to literally rewrite the last chapter of someone’s life.”

Trooper Steve said the detail is needed because of the “what if” factor. Many of these types of crashes go on to criminal court or some type of civil court and it all starts with the crash site.

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

Steven Montiero, better known as “Trooper Steve," joined the News 6 morning team as its Traffic Safety Expert in October 2017. A Central Florida native and decorated combat veteran, Montiero comes to the station following an eight-year assignment with the Florida Highway Patrol.