Family of Six from Upper Arlington, OH, Killed in 2-Car Crash

The Who:

Date: 10/18/13, 1:30 AM.
Fatalities: 6 (Eid Badi Shahad, 39; Entisar W. Hameed, 31; Shuaa Badi, 16; Amma Badi, 14; Ekbal Badi, 12; Lina Badi, 2).
Injuries: 1 (Shawn Paytner, 30).

Where: Riverside Dr & Fishinger Rd, Upper Arlington, OH.
Vehicles: Ford Crown Victoria (police interceptor), Toyota Corolla (2000-era).

Human element: The Shahad family emigrated three years ago to the US from Iraq as Syrian refugees. In addition to their 4 daughters, they had 5 sons between the ages of 5 and 17 who were not in the vehicle but who also lived with the family. Per family accounts, the family had spent the evening with friends and was driving home at the time of the collision.

The How:

Upper Arlington Police Officer Shawn Paynter was driving northbound on Riverside Dr. responding to a McDonalds armed robbery and abduction at 1905 W. Henderson Rd. Paynter had his lights and sirens on and was traveling at up to 86 mph when responding to the call. At the Fishinger Rd intersection, Shahad was driving westbound and ran a red light. He slowed close to a stop, and then began to roll through the intersection. Paytner saw him, veered to the right in a deliberate effort to avoid the Corolla, and was able to slow down to approx. 49 mph before impacting the Corolla (a full frontal impact for the Ford, and a driver’s side impact for the Toyota). Of the 7 vehicle occupants, only Hameed was wearing a seat belt. Every occupant of the Corolla died, while Paynter survived with head injuries, although he was able to return to work a month later.

The Why:

Risk factors:
Running a red light.
Driving without seat belts.
Driving at night.
Speed (on the part of the officer).
Lighter vehicle in collision.
Lack of side airbags.
Overloaded vehicle.
Distracted driving.

Protective factors:
Seat belt use (Hameed).

Vehicle analysis: This is an extremely sad and extremely preventable tragedy. First of all, the entire collision could have been prevented had Shahad not run the red light. Investigative reports indicate the light would have been clearly visible to Shahad for several seconds prior to the collision, and toxicology reports concluded he had not been drinking or consuming drugs. However, his refusal to stop may have been related to the late hour (driving at night = fatigue?) or due to distractions from the high number of occupants (in particular, children) in the vehicle. Whatever the reason, he ran the light.

The running of the light was why the crash occurred, but it is possible that there could have been survivors if all of the occupants of the Corolla had worn seat belts. Only Hameed, the mother, wore a seat belt, which meant that none of the children or husband did, which meant they each turned into projectiles and likely contributed to the trauma each suffered, including Hameed, in the vehicle. The risk of fatalities in collisions where even one occupant is unbelted is significantly higher due to the forces the unbelted occupant places on belted occupants, not to mention on himself or herself.

It is also significant to note that with 6 people in the Corolla, it would have been impossible for each to have been belted, as the Corolla seats 5 individuals. It is likely that the 2-year old sat in the lap of either the belted mother or one of the unbelted children in the rear seats. The 2-year old should have been in a car seat like any of these..

Paynter’s survival of the collision is entirely attributable to the greater weight of his vehicle and its good frontal score, which was based on the vehicle’s frontal structure and presence of a frontal airbag. He significantly increased his risk of death by not wearing his seat belt, and received head injuries in the impact. However, the standard moderate offset crash, which is even more strenuous than the full frontal impact-type crash that Paynter experienced, is at 40 mph, or considerably closer to the 49 mph impact Paynter experienced than 49 mph is to the tested side impact speed of 31 mph (more on that in the following paragraph). He is lucky to have survived, and likely impacted his frontal air bag and possibly the steering wheel through the air bag due to his lack of belt restraint, but was able to survive his injuries because he inhabited a much heavier, well scoring, and airbag equipped car.

The speed of the officer also certainly played a role in the deaths of the Corolla occupants, although he was legally allowed the speeds at which he was traveling and had the right of way. However, the intersection of the vehicle speed and the safety features of the vehicles came sharply into play here. The 2000-era Corolla, a small car, weighs around 2504 lbs, while the 2008-era Crown Victoria, a large car, weighs ~ 4074 lbs, or 63% more. The fact that the Crown Victoria was a police interceptor version means it likely weighed significantly more than this. In other words, the Corolla occupants faced 23% more force than they would have if impacted by the 3300-lb test sled in the IIHS side impact test from mass alone. At 49 mph, the Crown Victoria imparted 250% more force on the Corolla than it would have at the IIHS side impact test speed of 31 mph. Combining the higher mass and higher speed (KE = .5*m*v^2), the Crown Victoria imparted 443KJ of energy. The standard side impact test simulates 143KJ of energy (a 3300-lb sled impacting a vehicle at 31 mph). In other words, the Corolla occupants faced 310% of the force they’d have experienced in the types of crashes cars are side rated for. And the 2000-era Corolla didn’t come with side airbags of any kind as a standard feature, which are a big part of why the side impacts the IIHS tests for are survivable.

A review of the post-impact photos shows a severe amount of intrusion into the Corolla cabin and essentially no intrusion into the Crown Victoria, as would have been predicted by the frontal score of the Crown Victoria, within which it received a “good” mark overall and a “good” score for its structure and safety cage. The Corolla had no side impact rating, but would clearly have received a “poor” rating overall due to the lack of side airbags and a “poor” rating for its structure and safety cage.

Finally, the most significant elements to take away from this tragic story is that it would have been wholly preventable had the Corolla stopped at the light. The next best element would have been for all of the vehicle’s occupants to have worn their seat belts or car seats, although given the poor side impact performance of the Corolla and the speed at which the impact occurred, it is likely that there would still have been multiple fatalities.

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