James Farganne, June 28, 2013
Update July 19, 2013: Kimberly Dvorak Spreads Ridiculous Claim About Hastings Engine
[NOTE: If you read this article a few days ago, please consider re-reading, as it has been substantially updated, and now includes a mathematical analysis of the engine/tranny throw. Also, there is one detail that absolutely proves the car did not hit the tree intact. This detail is found in the update at the end of the main body of the article below.]
First, in case you are unfamiliar with the crash scene, a brief orientation.
The car crashed into a palm tree on the median adjacent to 621 North Highland Avenue (west side). It was traveling due south. An aerial shot from Google Maps:
The red arrow represents the car’s trajectory until it swerved eastward onto the median. The indicated palm tree is the one it struck. The red ‘A’ thumbtack is 621 North Highland.
The car struck the tree on its north-by-northwest side — that is, if you were to face the tree looking due south, the initial impact zone on the trunk would be slightly off-center to the right. That is where the bark is cleanly chewed away. In the following photo provided by Jim Stone forum member Doug, you can see that the impact damage extends around the west side of the trunk, dissipating as it goes:
Note that to the extreme right of the trunk (southwest side) you can see the end of impact damage and after that there is only charred bark. This damage pattern indicates that the car struck the tree and rotated counterclockwise if seen from above. It ended up facing just south of due east. Yet there are no skid marks on the grass or asphalt from the back tires, indicating that they were airborne during the rotation.
Here is another shot provided by Doug showing scorched grass and asphalt but no skid marks on either. Doug took it from the west side of the avenue, in front of 621 N. Highland, facing east. The swath of scorched grass tells us the car’s orientation as it burned.
So, it is established that the car struck the tree slightly to the west on its north side and rotated with rear wheels airborne to the position indicated by the scorched grass area.
How and why did that happen? I’ll call this The Rotation Question, and I will answer it below.
First, we need to look at the engine, which was thrown 130 feet to the southeast and landed near the northeast corner of Highland Ave. and Clinton Street. First, a view from the ground, grabbed from the Livelabs footage appended at the end of this article:
[Note: Some guys have jumped on me — “That not the engine, that the transmission, your a moron!” — okay, I’m not a car guy. Whatever. That thing is heavy and it flew a long way.]
You can see the streetlight (left of engine), the concrete area with manhole it sits on, and the two leaning trees (right of engine) both in the following aerial shot and from Maps street view:
The car hit the tree on its north-by-northwest side. The engine ended up 130 feet southeast of the tree. Even assuming that no bombs were involved, the obvious question is, how did the engine clear the tree? It could never have flown through it!
I’ll call this the Magic Engine Question. Again, I’ll answer it below.
[Update: After reading this report, my engineer friend Bruce got curious and did some calculations on the engine flight, proving that even if the tree weren’t in the way, the car would have had to be going 250 mph to throw the engine that far — and that doesn’t even factor in the bolts fastening the engine to the car. His presentation is here: Simple Physics Calculation]
Next, I direct your attention to the debris field extending from the wreck area in a southeasterly spray pattern toward the blown-out engine.
On the east side of the avenue, facing southwest, engine down the road, off-screen, to the left:
Facing northwest, toward the wreck:
The debris field is extensive and far-reaching. I cannot consider it consistent with a mere high-speed impact.
Had it just been a high-speed impact, the front end ought to have been “wrapped around” the trunk of the tree, as you’ll see below.
But all that debris came from somewhere, and here it is — a mostly missing front end:
The sheet of metal to the left of the tree is the Mercedes’ hood, wrapped around its south side. Here’s a due-south grab from the median:
Now think about this for a minute. Take a good, hard look, and THINK.
Is there some quality about palm trees that makes them incredibly destructive to the front end of an impacting vehicle?
For quick reference, here are some shots of high-speed front-end impacts. Click on them for the sources.
Click on this next one and you’ll see an assortment of similar photos, non of the wrecks burned, and none with detached hoods:
Based on this evidence alone, I am convinced there was a bomb in the engine compartment that destroyed the Mercedes’ front end and threw the engine. Since the cab was not destroyed, it was a directional bomb designed and placed to project the force of the explosion toward the front of the car.
Whiz kid Jim Stone forum member Glitch had this to say on the subject:
@Farganne Excluding the impossibility of the engine clearing the tree, the engine would not have gone 130 feet away from a collision alone. First, the engine would have to break free of its mounts, which are by no means weak. Then it would have to rip through the hood&frame in order to exit the engine compartment. After all of that, it would have to still have enough force from the momentum to travel 130 feet. Now, the engine in a Mercedes-Benz is not big, and weighs around 800-1200 lbs, and after ripping through the frame, it would not go very far. I don’t include math in this one as there are so many factors that are difficult to mathematically quantify, (the force to bust through the frame) and I don’t want to sit here all day doing it.
Moving on, here is a view of the wreck from the east side of Highland, facing due west:
Note that the top of the cab is caved in. Again, there’s the hood, twisted around the left (south) side of the tree.
The right front wheel looks to have been blown forward and cocked at an angle almost perpendicular to the rest of the car. It didn’t appear that way before the 2:00 mark of the Loudlabs footage, but it did afterward. There were secondary explosions during the time the car sat burning, so this bit of damage may have resulted from one of those.
Either that, or the wheel we see in this shot is actually the left front wheel blown over and obscuring the right front wheel from this angle.
Next, we need to take a look at the fire.
Many have been quick to point out that a Mercedes is not a Pinto. It doesn’t just burst into flames on impact with a tree. The gas tank in this vehicle is situated at its rear anyway. I think Jim Stone was correct in his assessment of the fire. It was instantly all-engulfing and incredibly intense. Such a fire could only have been initiated by a gas tank bomb, and I am taking that as a given.
I will close the focus on the fire by noting that Jose, the Spanish-speaking witness in the Loudlabs footage, though struggling to express himself in English, clearly indicated (3:45 – 3:48) that the car was on fire before it hit the tree. That tells me the gas tank bomb went off before the car hit the tree.
Now, after spending probably dozens of hours squinting at this scene from all angles, and visualizing scenerios to find one that explains all the observations I have made thus far, I am going to tell you what I think happened.
As it passed the two closely-spaced palm trees to the north of the impact palm, the car swerved left onto the median.
At that moment, both the gas tank bomb and an engine compartment bomb simultaneously went off.
Now for some Newtonian physics — equal and opposite reactions. The gas tank bomb caused the rear end of the car to lift. At the same time, the kick-back from the bomb in the engine compartment provided a counteracting “downward-and-backward” force.
The car flew toward the tree at reduced speed with its rear end raised and nose lowered.
Going in slow motion now. The blast threw the hood into the tree. It threw the engine down the street. At this point, there would still have been sufficient distance between car and tree for the bomb to throw the engine past the tree and down the street. This would be the point of origin of the debris field.
The hood hit the tree and wrapped around it.
At that point, before the hood fell, the car hit the tree with two impact points: first, whatever forward-projecting metallic scraps remained of the lower chassis (base of the trunk), followed by the upper edge of the windshield (higher up the tree).
The wrapped-around hood shielded the tree from surface abrasion at the upper impact point.
The Mercedes hit the tree slightly to the left of its own center. Forward momentum made it rotate counterclockwise (viewed from above) while falling to its final position, rear wheels airborne the whole time.
As it rotated, the wrapped hood went with it and ended up curved around the tree’s south side.
It fell in a heap where you see the scorched grass.
Loudlabs arrived, and I have had a headache ever since.
I believe that the car was remotely controlled.
And that is how I see it having happened.
Here is the Loudlabs footage:
Jim Stone forum member tigerwolfe made this valuable observation:
I believe I have identified a piece of the debris field from the limplobs video at around the 4:50 mark. While viewing the vid, I’d seen this peice many times, Like I’m certain many others have too. Could not ID it, so I ignored it.
It turns out to be from the nose of the Mercedes. The part of the front bumper to which the front license plate attaches. The front California license plate is NOT in the bracket, and could NOT get out without removing the white plastic trim.
This piece found on the road is NOT a piece from a car that hit a tree head-on at 100mph. And this piece did NOT come from a car that was currently licensed in CA.
From two frames taken from the video to show different viewpoints:
And close-ups of the same two frames with a 2013 Diamond Silver Metallic Mercedes-Benz C 250 Coupe superimposed.
I will add this to tigerwolfe’s observation:
Was there a driver in the car?
I offer for your inspection these two shots. Is that a crash dummy head?
There has been some confusion about this shot. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to match the crash scene, but actually it does.
The denser, more crowded appearance of palm trees is due to telephoto lens distortion. The sign with the arrow above the car is way down at the intersection with Clinton Street. The telephoto lens magnified it.
From this shot it is also obvious that they shifted the wreck and removed the driver’s door after they extinguished the fire. Why, I don’t know.
In my humble opinion, anyone claiming the Mercedes was hit by a Hellfire missile is either deliberately or mistakenly full of it. For reasons that should be obvious by way of the preceding analysis.
Over and out.