The Vermillion Rotary Club held its weekly luncheon meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Neuharth Center on the USD campus. President David Hussey opened the meeting and also gave the invocation.
Following a round of singing, introduction of guests including Vermillion High School seniors, and announcements, Rotarian Laura Jenski introduced Sergeant Tony Melaregno as our speaker for the day.
Sergeant Melaragno has been a South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper for 18 years. In January he was promoted to Sergeant of the Vermillion squad, where he supervises the lower southeast portion of the state.
He has also been an accident reconstructionist since 1998. He is considered an expert and can testify in court. His presentation explained what is involved in reconstructing a crash scene.
Sgt. Melaragno passed out handouts of an accident reconstruction he performed in the Black Hills as an illustration. He stated that most people assume that vehicle speed is a major determining factor. He informed us that this is not always the case. He also said that computer programs are now used in reconstruction, which helps to decrease the time involved.
Some of the factors that are considered include: vehicle weight, crush depth, angle of approach, departure angles, drag coefficients of various surfaces, rollover distances, and sliding distances; as well as speed of the vehicles.
He also said that the time needed for investigation and reconstruction vary depending on the type of accident. In this case it took four hours to investigate and two weeks to reconstruct the accident. The information is then turned over to the District Attorney for disposition.
During questions following his presentation, he said there are no hard and fast rules instigating a reconstruction. He stated that a fatality crash or a potential for a lawsuit might be two instances that would trigger an accident reconstruction.
In answer to another question he stated that they have equipment to determine drag coefficients of various surfaces on the scene.
He also said in answer to another question that they have a black box to read a vehicle's computer but that the information isn't necessarily helpful.