Two weeks after Audi car crash, no alcohol report yet

Two weeks after Audi car crash, no alcohol report yet

Cops say the forensics lab has a huge backlog, and delays of up to six months are common

Y Karuna Sagar, son of an MLA from Hosur, crashed his luxury car into a wall in Koramangala and died on August 31, reportedly after partying with his friends. DH Photo by B K Janardhan

Two weeks after the Audi car crash in Koramangala that claimed seven lives, police are yet to receive a report on whether the driver was drunk.

Y Karuna Sagar, son of an MLA from Hosur, crashed his luxury car into a wall and died on August 31, reportedly after partying with his friends. Six others in the car also died almost instantaneously.

B R Ravikanthe Gowda, joint commissioner of police (traffic), says the Forensics Science Laboratory (FSL) takes up cases in chronological order, and a huge backlog is the cause for the delay.

“We are expecting three expert reports on the Audi Q3 crash. One from the RTO, another from an expert about the road engineering at the spot and a third from the FSL,” he told Metrolife

Adugodi traffic police, probing the crash, say they are also awaiting a blood alcohol report from the government hospital. K M Shantharaju, deputy commissioner of police, says, “We are closely pursuing this case.” A senior police officer, who was earlier the head of the city’s traffic division, says doctors at the government hospitals always play it safe and send blood samples to the forensics lab to confirm suspicion of drunkenness in accident cases. 

“The report usually takes some time, but if the police see urgency they request the lab to speed up the process. When you are charging a person with driving drunk, it must be confirmed by an expert,” explains the officer. 

Expert says

A senior professor in the department of forensic medicine and toxicology, Victoria Hospital, says under normal circumstances postmortem reports take no longer than two or three days. This happens when the cause of death is known, but in situations where the cause of death is not known, the postmortem reports could take three to six months, he says. “To ascertain if the cause of the accident was drunk driving or if the driver was under the influence of some substance, samples are submitted to FSL. If the alcohol percentage is to be determined, then visceral samples from the stomach or intestine could also be taken and that further delays the process,” he says.

Last year, Director-General and Inspector-General of Police Praveen Sood had issued an order directing all investigating officers to submit samples within 15 days from the date of collection. He had said this would help see a case to its logical end. 

Even the FSL has asked officers not to delay in submitting the samples, the expert says. “Usually in road traffic accidents, the cause of death is an injury, but we always send samples for alcohol examination. Sometimes, if the patient who has died was treated at the hospital for a week or more, then we could miss the alcohol in the blood because it wears off. If the patient dies in a day’s time, we can still ascertain the presence of alcohol in the body,” he explains.  Repeated phone calls by Metrolife to FSL went unanswered.  

Cops can fasttrack it

An expert of forensic medicine at Oxford Medical College, who has examined samples in important cases, says investigators look at two factors when it comes to road accidents — the contributing factor and the cause of death. “In the case of the Q3 SUV crash, the report on the cause of death has not come. The cause of death is definitely not alcohol, it could be a contributing factor which will be known only after the test,” says the expert. In case of urgency, post mortem reports, including the one to ascertain the level of alcohol, can be given within 72 hours, he says. “This helps investigation and also speeds up insurance claims,” he told Metrolife. In most cases relating to road accidents only a quality analysis (confirming the presence of alcohol) are done and not a quantity one (how much alcohol is present in the blood). “The quantity is important because the legalities of the case rest on it. In most cases, especially in the high profile ones, if a large quantity of drugs or alcohol is found in blood, the police try to hush it up or delay the process,” says an expert who has been a part of many forensic investigations. 

Drunken driving tests coming back

The traffic police, who had stopped breathalyser tests after the pandemic broke out, say they could resume it soon. Nine people have died in three road accidents in the last fortnight, and police suspect drunken driving caused the crashes. “In the Audi case, the FSL results are still awaited. After we stopped drunken driving checks, people seem to be taking advantage. Speeding and reckless driving after drinking are suspected in all three cases,” says Ravikanthe Gowda, joint commissioner of police. He plans to consult the health department on how to follow all pandemic protocols and resume breathalyser tests. Police can make out within seconds if a driver is drunk, and they confirm their suspicions with blood tests, whose results are usually given within minutes of using the breathalyser. 

Horrific crash

Y Karuna Sagar, son of Hosur MLA Y Prakaash, crashed an Audi into a wall in Koramangala on August 31. Six others in the car also died. TV channels showed footage of two girls, who were with him, buying alcohol earlier that evening. Police say the car was speeding at about 140 kmph.

Check out latest videos from DH: