With the scene constructed, analysis done, and the animation complete, the next part was to use the animation results to answer the original questions that National Geographic asked us.
Who was really driving?
To answer that question we placed human models in the Dean Porsche and created a slow motion animation to demonstrate the impact alignment in relation to occupant positions.
The slow motion animation (above) showed clearly that whomever was driving was struck directly by the left front corner of the ’49 Ford coupe. The animation also showed that the passenger was being pushed laterally out of the passenger side door.
The marks on the roadway indicated the Dean vehicle rotated violently in a counter clockwise fashion which relieved the occupant forces and explain why the mechanic Rolf, was found outside the vehicle, on the driver’s side at final rest. As the vehicle rotated, Rolf was pushed out the passenger door, and the vehicle continued to rotate to final rest, so he was found near his ejected position.
At rest James Dean was reported to be found in the passenger position, with legs in the driver’s well. It makes perfect sense. Let’s face it, after the impact, there really was only room for one!
An eyewitness was in a 48 Ford truck following the Turnipseed ’49 Ford into the collision. He swears, to this day, that Jams Dean was in the passenger position at impact. With the animation already built, it was easy for me to add another vehicle and put an animation camera in the driver’s position of the Ford truck following the distance of 50 yards behind to examine his opportunity to see who was driving.
The animation which resulted was a compelling depiction of what the witness had for a view and for how long. These snapshots to the right do not really do it justice but give you an idea of the value of being able to instantly create graphics that will support or refute what a witness states.
The biggest question:
Why did it happen?
Why did Turnipseed turn in front of Dean?
The view from the wheel of Turnipseed became a very useful tool in determining why it happened. We proved clearly that there was no vertical visibility obstruction, so then why? I believe that it was because the color of the Porsche made it inconspicuous in the background color of the roadway and because Turnipseed was turning left onto another highway at highway speed, so he simply stopped looking directly ahead, where Dean was approaching and turned his attention to the road he was turning onto.
To explain that, we created another view of the same animation from Turnipseed’s perspective. (see left)
This snapshot from the real time animation precisely places both vehicles in time prior to collision and clearly, Dean was there to be seen, if Turnipseed remained focused ahead.