Headlights in fatal accident undergoing forensic exam
The Yuma County Sheriff's Office is awaiting the results of an expert's examination of headlights to determine if they were turned on or off during a collision which claimed the life of a Yuma teenager.
According to the Yuma County Sheriff's Office, the collision happened at about 1:25 a.m. July 2.
At that time, 17-year-old Ivan Christian Mendivil was driving a Honda Civic with one other passenger southbound on Avenue 4E when he allegedly failed to stop at the stop sign at County 14th Street. The identity of the passenger was not released.
As Mendivil's vehicle was crossing through the intersection, 49-year-old Javier Santoyo of Phoenix was driving a Ford Ranger truck westbound on County 14th Street through the crossing and struck the Honda on the driver's side.
Both occupants of Mendivil's Honda, as well as Santoyo, were transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center.
While Santoyo and the passenger of the sedan suffered only minor injuries, Mendivil sustained serious, life-threatening injuries and was later flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, where he died the night of July 12.
There has been no evidence so far of either driver being intoxicated during the collision, said Maj. Leon Wilmot of YCSO.
There have been conflicting reports about whether or not the headlights on the Ford Ranger were turned on during the collision.
Ian Harrison, a private investigator with Kamei Investigations who is examining the incident on behalf of the family, is attempting to get into contact with witnesses who were following the truck just prior to the collision who allegedly reported Santoyo had not turned his headlights on, he said.
However, based on evidence collected by traffic investigators who responded to the collision, YCSO believes the headlights were in fact turned on during the crash.
“All indications from the preliminary investigation, and talking with the investigator at the scene, it appears from what evidence they can tell that the lights were on at the time of the accident,” Wilmot said.
Harrison is convinced the headlights were not turned on based on photographs of the scene obtained from YCSO.
“I'm very confident that YCSO has no evidence to show the headlights were ever on,” he said. “Just the photos alone show they weren't working, so there is no way in the world they were actually working. The elements inside are busted.”
YCSO is not conducting a joint investigation on the collision with Kamei Investigations, and dismissed any outside claims about the status of the headlights during the impact, Wilmot said.
“A lot of people have some theories but we deal with the facts, and the evidence at the scene.”
To put the matter to rest, YCSO has sent the headlights to the Arizona Department of Public Safety for forensic examination.
“Just so they can confirm that, it will go for forensics,” Wilmot said.
Harrison continued his private investigation on Friday afternoon by attempting to recreate the collision at the scene of the crash.
Wilmot stated there is no need for such a follow-up investigation since YCSO investigators were thorough the night of the incident and added the passage of time has been detrimental to any evidence left at the scene.
“It is hard for an investigator to come back... and try to collect any type of forensic evidence because how many vehicles have gone through there, skidded through there, and everything else that would muck up your scene?”
That is why “we call upon our guys who are trained as critical accident reconstruction folks to go out there and do it right the first time so you don't have to go back,” he added.
No charges have been filed at this time, although the incident is still under investigation.
YCSO asks anyone with any information about the collision, or the events leading up to it, to call them at 783-4427.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.