What happens when a 2008 Scion is traveling south the wrong way on a road at 3:47 a.m. and 55 mph, and a 2009 Toyota Corolla straddling two lanes is traveling north on the same road, and at least one of the drivers is alcohol-impaired?
In this case, which occurred a year ago today, Breana Webb, the 18-year-old driver of the Toyota, was killed and her four passengers injured.
Martin William Juarez, 34, the driver of the Scion, will stand trial in January on charges including second-degree murder.
Early Monday morning, experts in vehicular accident reconstruction hired by Juarez’s attorney closed the northbound lanes of Coffee Road between Stockdale Highway and Brimhall Road to re-enact the accident.
They weren’t seeking exculpatory evidence. They filmed the deadly approach multiple times from both perspectives in order to see what both drivers saw that clear night a year ago, below a sliver of moon.
The edited film, added to police and toxicology reports, car damages, roadway evidence from the crash and both vehicles’ airbag control modules — like an airplane’s black box — will give a clearer picture of that night’s collision.
Before filming began, some facts about the case already were known by Andrew J. Hanson and Robert Koetting, the two investigators.
Webb was legally drunk. Her toxicology report obtained by The Californian Monday shows her blood alcohol content was .14, nearly twice the legal limit to drive.
Juarez, who refused a sobriety test at the time of the accident, had a BAC of at least .08, according to the charges against him.
He was convicted in 2005 of DUI. In California, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if he’s previously been convicted of DUI and is later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in a crash that kills someone.
Juarez was allegedly driving the wrong way on Coffee Road in the No. 1 lane at about 55 mph. Webb’s northbound car was straddling the No. 1 and 2 lanes, investigators said. Her speed at the time of impact was 16 mph, but it’s not known whether she applied brakes just before the crash.
The accident also gained notoriety for the social media outpouring afterward. Hundreds of tweets by Webb’s friends and acquaintances recounted an invitation to a drinking party the night of the crash, and a boast by Webb that she and her friends “rule at drinking games.”
Attorney Bill Slocumb, who represents Juarez, requested the re-enactment in December, hiring Hanson’s Bakersfield-based Intelligence Technologies.
Costs for the re-enactment included $75 for a film permit, 10 Bakersfield police officers at $55 each for three hours in order to block roads and control traffic, a $900 one-day insurance policy with the city, $200 for the two car rentals and the hiring of DVD Bakersfield to film. Accident reconstructionists like Hanson and Koetting typically earn between $100 and $250 an hour.
The only reminders of what happened a year ago are two long-dead bouquets tied to a “No Parking Any Time” sign across from Town and Country Village Shopping Center, and a white ceramic angel.
But the focus of Monday’s re-enactment was a single orange cone in the median that marked the crash location across from Los Hermanos restaurant. The Scion and Toyota — identical except in color to the two cars involved in the accident — drove toward each other again and again and again from opposite directions.
Police vehicles with lights flashing blocked road entrances in front of barricades and traffic cones. Koetting, in the Toyota, drove north from Stockdale, and Hanson, in the Scion, drove south from Brimhall and later Truxtun Avenue.
Communicating via walkie-talkies, Hanson let Koetting know he was on his way. With varying success, they passed each other near the cone. Then they’d rendezvous in the middle of the road, discuss what worked and what didn’t, and try again, with the Toyota driven at varying speeds.
Afterward, the investigators thanked the cops, sent the cameraman home and shook hands. And therein lay the biggest difference from a year ago: On Monday, both drivers walked away.