Questions to Ask About the Masten Motorcyclist Crash

A collision between a motorcyclist, later identified as Devon Newberry Adair, 33, and a 16 year old car driver, led to the death of the biker and some body damage to the car's driver's side.  As reported in the Mason County Press:

LOGAN TOWNSHIP — A 33-year-old man driving a motorcycle died Friday evening following a crash on Masten Road between Hawley and Lucek roads. According to Mason County Sheriff’s Office deputies on scene, the motorcyclist was traveling southbound on Masten Road. Witnesses say the motorcycle was weaving, possibly to avoid a deer. The motorcycle then struck a northbound Toyota Camry with four occupants head-on. The motorcyclist was declared dead on scene. None of the occupants of the Toyota were injured.

A later MCP article would indicate: 

 

"Emergency personnel were dispatched at 8:31 p.m. to the scene located between Hawley and Lucek roads. According to Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, Adair was driving a 1995 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on Masten Road when a deer ran into his path.

“It appears Mr. Adair attempted to avoid the deer and in doing so lost control of his motorcycle and crossed the centerline of the road,” Cole said. Adair then drove into the path of a northbound 2003 Toyota Camry, striking it head-on. A 16-year-old male from Milford was operating the Toyota, which also had three occupants, all minors."

TORCH ANALYSIS:  Having some knowledge of the motor vehicle code, a 16 year old driving with three other minors is a violation of MCL 257.310e(6)(b) unless these minors are members of the same family or the driving is being done as part of the driver's job, or they are driving to or from work.

The chances that a teen from Milford (in Oakland County) is in the remote SE corner of Mason County doing something concerning a job at 8:30 PM on Friday night with three other minors aboard seems remote, so why isn't this being investigated and having him held to some account?  Maybe the sheriff has a soft spot for the child since he was the victim of a motorcyclist driving into him.

But things don't seem to add up when one looks at the provided evidence.  The Ludington Torch went to the scene earlier today about 20 hours afterwards and found it was mostly cleaned up of debris, which is standard sheriff procedure after extensive records are made showing where debris landed, where damage occurred to both vehicles, the injuries to the deceased, etc.  About the only thing that was noticeable was the brake marks on the road, determined to be the motorcycle's since only one line of brake marks was visible (this can be seen in the picture above from MCP) when I viewed the scene.

Noting that these kids would likely have about a 15-minute wait for a response, this gave them plenty of time to create and agree on a story of what happened and move some things around to back up that story-- not saying they did, but the opportunity was there since not a lot of people travel there at that time of night.  A comprehensive investigation should figure out that was the case should one be pursued where the sheriff would use the Bosch CDR tool to figure out what happened with the Toyota Camry pre-crash along with using debris-physics and the bike treads to determine whether the alleged incident fit the facts.  

The treads are instructive for anyone with experience riding motorcycles, and one expects this wasn't the 33-year old's first time out.  The story is that the bike was traveling south on Masten, but the tracks are only in the northbound lane.  If one is to believe the driver's version, the biker's side is unavailable for some reason, the bike veered to avoid the deer into the opposite lane with oncoming traffic, started to brake far to the left of the lane and then resumed a path while still heavily braking going straight and directly into the path of the oncoming vehicle.  We are looking south in the picture.

What seems a lot more probable with the brake pattern is that the biker was northbound driving a couple of feet from the center and saw the car coming into his lane.  Perhaps the inexperienced Camry driver, likely driving in an unlawful manner, saw a deer (there is no report of a deer in the biker's version of events) and moved over.  There is no evidence shown that the car driver applied their brakes.  An experienced biker would start applying his brakes and trying to veer off the road on his side to avoid an almost certainly fatal crash with the car, choosing the better survivability of going into the ditch.  

It would have been easy enough for a scared teen to turn the car around to make it appear as if the driver was headed north and move around some of the physical evidence to support that story.  If that's the case, any reasonably complete investigation will figure that out, and maybe justice can be applied to the minor likely driving the car illegally.  If he hadn't been on the road, Devon Adair would be able to be riding today and we wouldn't have a young widow and at least one child who will never see their father again.

                                                     Devon Newberry Adair with child

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Replies to This Discussion

XLFD: "There is no evidence shown that the car driver applied their brakes." 

Yes there is. You can clearly see the skid marks behind the Toyota in the picture, and they originate on or near the right side of the center line of the road, exactly where one would expect if the scenario is as stated.   

XLFD: "It would have been easy enough for a scared teen to turn the car around to make it appear as if the driver was headed north and move around some of the physical evidence to support that story." 

This is an outrageous accusation. Please explain how a front-wheel-drive Toyota could have been "turned around" by four teenagers when its left front wheel is crushed and turned sideways and the vehicle is not driveable. Did they just pick it up and turn it in the other direction? 

XLFD: "Noting that these kids would likely have about a 15-minute wait for a response, this gave them plenty of time to create and agree on a story of what happened and move some things around to back up that story."

Another outrageous and implausible exaggeration. So you think four teenagers who have just been involved  a fatal accident immediately conspired to stage the scene, move their completely disabled vehicle, move other evidence, coordinate their stories, and then lie to the police about what happened? All in 15 minutes? This is outlandish speculation, typical of a conspiracy theorist, and a despicable indictment of a young driver who just wrecked their car and witnessed the violent death of another person. The young driver of the Toyota deserves respect and understanding, not accusations and speculation. 

Addressing your concerns in order. 

First, I noted I was at the scene and saw only one set of skid marks, they were very dark, and only one of them existed and they were in the northbound lane.  Had this 20-year-old car possessed only functioning brakes on one side, the skid mark pattern wouldn't have remained straight down the road from the start, until they veered at the end, away from the side of the functioning brake.  You would also likely see road rubber evidence from the non-functioning side which also went from 55-65 mph to 0 mph during that same time.  None.

Second, you make an assumption that the Camry was undrivable, and the picture does seem to show the wheel at an unnatural angle from the debris.  Consider, had the driver been in the wrong lane and the biker broke the way he did, the impact would match the skid marks.  The weight of a 2003 Camry is 3000 pounds, here's a heartwarming video of a 16 year old who was able to lift the back end of the car all by himself, saving his neighbor who was being crushed after his jack failed:

It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that the four minors lifted the back of the vehicle and moved it facing the other way, using the bad wheel as a pivot, since the skid mark evidence does not seem to show that the impact turned the car around.  Again, it's inconclusive without knowing more.

Lastly, it's definitely speculative, but when skid marks and potentially debris patterns, crash computer data, and Mr. Adair's position and blood evidence do not match the story given, one should trust them over witnesses with a potential conflict of interest in keeping to the truth.  Scared teens often invent a story, haven't you ever seen the movie "I Know What You Did Last Summer"?  

Again, I always advise to wait for the evidence to come out, but Sheriff Cole has a history of blocking FOIA requests dealing with incidents like this, and I have seen him value the futures of drivers at fault over motorcyclists killed by their careless driving.  After I filed a lawsuit to get information about a 2015 accident that left Scott Butler and his wife dead and received it over the course of a year or so, the evidence shown that the young driver pulled out from a stop sign in the path of the Butlers' motorcycle, riding legally.  Our sheriff and prosecutor seem not to care about victims when they are riding motorcycles.  Please offer one counterexamplesince 2012.

I didn't "assume" that the car is not driveable. It is obvious from the picture. You can't drive a front-wheel-drive car with a front wheel broken off from the drive train at a right angle. The half shaft is toast. Why is this not obvious to you? It is not unusual for the ABS system on a 20 year old car to malfunction, causing the car to react poorly to panic braking. If the car had been re-positioned as you speculate, the skid marks would not match up at all, as they do in the picture. You presented zero evidence that "debris patterns, crash computer data, and Mr. Adair's position and blood evidence" point to anything other than what was reported. Is it useful to base one's opinions regarding a fatal accident on a 25 year old Hollywood movie, or on a seven year-old experience you had with Sheriff Cole? Your post is all speculation and demeans the driver of the Camry, his passengers, and Sheriff Cole. The driver will NEVER get the image of that accident out of his head, and you are all but accusing him of tampering with evidence in a fatal accident, as if he were some criminal. Why? 

I agree with RK. I rarely agree with you regarding these accidents but for you to speculate that the teens in the car somehow rearranged an accident scene as you describe makes no sense. Unless these teens had ice water in their veins and could out think Lex Luther I would not assume what you have proposed, especially when there was a death involved.  Let's look at this from a different perspective that does make sense. We have an adult who should know better than to ride on a dangerous machine at a time when shadows and light blend together making it difficult to actually determine what may be in the road. We also do not know how fast the cyclist was traveling. It sounds like your accusing the teens of staging an accident and that the police helped by covering up any evidence that would indicate that. I feel very sorry for for the cyclists family and for the teens. This accident would never have happened if he had been riding in a much safer motor vehicle such as, oh, a car. If you really believe this accident was staged and covered up then it's up to you to dig into what exactly happened. I will be very interested to see any proof that this was anything other than a tragic accident. 

From the pictures provided it appears that the teen driver swerved and braked. It probably all happened so fast and maybe the investigation is on going. I like to think the best of our law enforcement. Maybe the teen braked so hard it broke his front axle? What caused that damage? Did the motorcyclist hit the driver's front wheel? Very unfortunate accident. I agree Willy ... near sunset on Saturday night is not the best time to ride around Ruby Creek on a motorcycle. Sad.

It's very possible I may have misread the skid mark evidence.  Since there was only one set, I assumed the marks were left by the motorcycle, and if that were the case, the official story had holes in it. 

Instead, if the collision messed up the front driver's side wheel (as it appears in the photo) the skid marks would not be from braking but because the momentum of the car would have continued pushing it down the road after the impact leaving rubber from the unmoving wheel on the pavement, which is why there wasn't a second set because the other side's wheels were unharmed. 

This is the more likely explanation of what happened and explains why the skid mark pattern was like it was.  I appreciate RK Hubbard's capacity to ask his own questions, it helped me reevaluate additional possibilities.

The accident occurred at the beginning of the vehicle's skid marks. This is because the ABS system prevented skidding by intermittent braking until the moment that motorcycle impacted the vehicle's left front wheel, disabling the ABS. The brake system instantly reverted to non-ABS mode, locking the wheels and causing the skid marks. So the impact occurred exactly where the skid marks start. The speed of the vehicle can be found by interviewing the occupants, or possibly by examination of the vehicle's computers. Analysis of the mass of the motorcycle and the amount of damage done to the vehicle can lead to an estimation of the speed of the bike. 

I think you may be right about this now, X. For whatever reason, the one-tire skid mark maybe the "broken wheel" and maybe the teen did not brake sufficiently to avoid accident or lessen impact. I hope law enforcement does check into whether these kids should have been alone in the car (without adult supervision) and give the driver appropriate citation.

Ah yes! The young Camry driver just killed a young father, created a widow and a fatherless child, devastated at least two families, and has the image of a broken human body flying past his car tattooed in his brain for the rest of his life. Yeah, Let's just go ahead and stick him with a misdemeanor. Hasn't he suffered enough for you? Or do you just want him to get a ticket as a constant reminder of what a horrible accident he was involved in? I hope our justice system has a lot more compassion than you do. 

Yes.  Rk.  I didn't make the law.  But I support it just for that reason.  4 kids in a car on Saturday night.  Laws are there for reason.  Yes.  It's a terrible tatoo‐memory (good word) but law is law.  And with that long of a skid mark, do you suppose that speed was involved?  If one single driver paying attention saw the deer, would he not have slowed down also?  LE is to enforce law not be a compassionate psychologist or priest forgiving wrong-doing.  And are you compassionate with your insults on me?  Personal insults should not be involved on this forum as I understand.

An update given by the sheriff on Sunday noted that there was evidence that the motorcyclist first struck a deer and then the car, which seems rather odd, since the witnesses from the car noticed swerving and veering by the motorcyclist, but never saw a deer according to the first two stories of the incident.  

Thanks for all the comments, I would hope that everyone who has expressed their opinion notes that the article's headline notes the questions to ask, and that any speculation is done in an 'analysis' section, where my speculation is noted and based only on what was stated in news releases (which are often wrong, especially at MCP) and what I viewed at the scene 22 hours later.  I believe I misinterpreted the one set of skid marks to be those of the motorcycle and tried to square that with the given facts.  I failed to initially see that this could also be consistent with a car with an inoperable wheel coming to a stop.  If the rest of the forensics line up, I accept that result.

The initial reports led me to believe that the MCSO was relying strictly on the witnesses in the car as to what happened, and this is what came out in that 2015 incident that killed Scott and Melanie Butler on Hawley Road.  The driver in that group of youths was stated to have properly stopped at the stop sign.  The MCSO and MCP failed to report that she then pulled out right in front of the Butlers' motorcycle, stealing their right of way and their life.  

This is why I am extra skeptical to reports from the MCSO and MCP, and why I explored the alternatives, when I couldn't initially think outside of the box and figure out that the one skid mark was not from the biker.  I would agree with Willy that driving a motorcycle at that stage of the evening is a dangerous act in itself due to deer and other wildlife (both of which I saw on my way to the scene), but it is within the law and he may have had no other choice.

The sheriff has failed to update us to show why this 16-year-old driving three other minors on Friday night deep in rural Mason County was driving within the law; his/her presence on the road was likely unlawful and any psychological damage they may have from this is from their own causation or due to the fact that they will get off without even a ticket.

Glad you can recant, X. That shows the character of a truly humble reporter. I still have questions ... what happened to the deer? Not to sound calloused about the human life lost but more for accident forensics ... that is, was the deer travelling west to east and ran in front of the sb motorcycle. If so why didn't the car also hit the deer? Timing?

Then to check speed of the car, are there any available calculations from the length of the skidmark which would seem to appear at the time of impact.

Sad and haunting loss of a young father's life. Condolences to his family.

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