Prof. Jackson Mwakali enters the witness box. He is Makerere University professor of civil and environmental engineering and led a team of engineering experts that investigated the scene of the crash at Nsenga’s residence in Bugolobi suburb in January last year.
Jane Okuo: (Principal State Attorney): How did you get involved in this case, Professor?
On 1st February 2013, the Uganda Police wrote to the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of Makerere University requesting it to carry out an investigation on a certain gate in Bugolobi, Kampala. Four of us were appointed and given five days to submit a report.
Okuo: How did you know the site?
Mwakali: We were taken there by police in their own car to first visit and acquaint ourselves with the subject matter. We were also shown certain locations at the site with respect to the gate.
Okuo: What did you agree on?
Mwakali: We observed the gate and all related components of the gate, locking mechanism, construction of the gate and materials it was made of. We also observed the in and out of the drive way, its dimensions and the finishing materials it was made of, we were also shown certain marks on the gate and drive way that related to the distances of those marks with respect to the gate. We recovered a piece of the securing horizontal bolt and took it for chemical analysis in the lab at Makerere University with the aim of obtaining what kind of steel material it was. We also did a number of demonstrations on the gate.
Okuo: When did you conclude and can you confirm this report is the one you are telling this court about?
Mwakali: We signed on every page and I should be able to tell my signature. (He is shown the report and confirms, court admits it as prosecution evidence. The defence makes no objection to the 54-page report on assessment of motor vehicle impact on the gate).
Okuo: Prof can you lead us through your findings?
Mwakali: The gate had a locking mechanism of horizontal and vertical bolts that secured it into the ground but the horizontal bolt was deformed at one end to an angle of 18.7 degrees.
Okuo: What force would be required to bend it that way and did you make any finding in respect to misalignment?
Mwakali: The misalignment seems to have been a fabrication error, either during examination of the gate or in the fabrication workshop.
Okuo: You said the vertical bolt was not damaged, what is the significance of that?
Mwakali: It is significant because with the force applied outside to force the gate open, these bolts have to be up, lest they are also damaged, they surely should get dented just like the horizontal bolts.
Okuo: What else did you look at Professor?
Mwakali: We looked at the pillars of the gate, usually they are heavy for metallic gates. There was no evidence of them being damaged.
Okuo: What else did you do and find out?
Mwakali: We demonstrated with a moving vehicle (Toyota Mark X model of 2005). The left shutter of the gate would have to be open in order for the marks of the gate and the car to coincide.
Okuo: Can you explain about the intermittent braking?
Mwakali: We experimented and said, at 2.1 metres away from the gate, we tell you to accelerate as soon as you reach the gate and brake as hard as you can so we see how far the car can go with full braking. You cannot reach 17.45m except if you keep braking and releasing or you brake. But even then the car has to be fitted with ABS (Auto Breaking System) that prevents the car from locking together so you keep full control. This is the case in modern cars. We did not investigate the ABS system of the car in question.
Okuo: What else did you examine?
Makali: We examined under what circumstances one would brake so hard but continue to move because of momentum of the car. There are two scenarios and conditions; one is if you are driving at a speed of 61km per hour under dry conditions of surface and 45km per hour if the surface is wet as friction resistance is low.
Okuo: How would that be achieved?
Mwakali: You need to start accelerating 23 metres from the gate; that is the only way you can achieve that speed for that particular car assuming the gate is open.
Okuo: What happens if the gate is closed?
Mwakali: You would have to drive at much higher speed to overcome the resistance from the gate and crash into it and force it open and you need enough drive way space outside the gate, we are talking of about 145km per hour speed here.
Okuo: Is it possible the vehicle had unintended acceleration? What was your technical assessment?
Mwakali: We did research and we found out that there are reported cases of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars but the Mark X model is not one of those.
(The defence lawyers start cross examining the witness)
Isaac Walukaga: Can you confirm the cause of the bend on the vertical bolt was force from outside?
Mwakali: My Lord, I did not say there was a bend on the vertical bolt.
Walukaga : Okay, the horizontal bolt?
Mwakali: That was out of scope of our investigation.
Walukaga: Can you confirm that a Toyota Mark X can generate a force enough to cause the bending of the bolt?
Walukaga: Can you also confirm that the car can move a distance of 17.45m with intermittent braking?
(Court breaks for 15 minutes and resumes with a new witness)
Andrew Buyimba, police inspector of vehicles, who was on team of the police investigators).
Okuo: How did you get involved in this case?
Buyimba: On 20th January 2013, I was summoned by my boss to join him and two others to investigate a vehicle that had been involved in an accident at Bugolobi. We did a visual inspection, road testing and looked for any funny noise.
(He is given the police report, confirms it and it’s tendered in as prosecution evidence)
Okuo: What did you find out?
Buyimba: The car was fitted with ABS (auto breaking system) that is computerized, it has sensors that will sense when the wheel is not moving and send a signal to the computer and consequently the valve will produce a brake fluid that stops the car from skidding.
Okuo: How does this ABS add to the efficiency of the vehicle?
Buyimba: The reason it is fitted with ABS is to avoid it from skidding. The car also has interior and exterior safety devices, it warns the driver of any obstacles nearby.
Okuo: Were there any accident damages?
Buyimba: The front bumper had green scratch marks at the side of the passenger.
Okuo: What were the pre accident conditions of the car?
Buyimba: The pressure of the tryes was normal.
Okuo: Did you road test this car?
Buyimba: Yes we did, it was moveable. I drove it myself.
Okuo: What did you find from the driving test?
Buyimba: The steering was good, the brakes had no damage, the shock absorbers and engine too were good. Generally the car was perfect.
Okuo: What were your conclusions?
Buyimba: We concluded that the green marks on the car were indicative that the car came into contact with an external object and the position of the green marks shows the bumper came into contact with a green object at an angle.
Judge: Any cross examination?
Defence lawyers: No cross examination, my Lord.
(Richard Ouma, a private security guard with Protectorate SP testifies. He was called by the accused to help her, he was guarding the neighbouring home).
Okuo: Where were you on 10th January 2013?
Ouma: I was at the premises I guard; of the Alam Group of companies in Bugolobi. I heard a big bang at the gate of the neighbour and some noise after a few minutes.
Okuo: What happened next?
Ouma: A woman came asking to see my boss, I told her he was not around and she asked me to assist her.
Okuo: Which woman are you talking about?
Ouma: The woman who caused the accident. (laughter in court)
Ouko: What did you do?
Ouma: I went there and saw a man crying in severe pain, I was the only man so I asked our gardener to join me.
Okuo: Join you to do what?
Ouma: To help her carry the crying man into the car.
Okuo: Who else was there?
Ouma: Two ladies, the one who called me and the maid.
Okuo: What then did you do?
Ouma: We carried him into a blue car.
Okuo: Who drove the car?
Ouma: The woman.
Judge: You mean the woman who called you for assistance?
Okuo: Was there any conversation?
Ouma: No, he was in too much pain and only crying. The woman kept saying, “sorry darling. Sorry sweetheart.”
Okuo: What did he reply?
Ouma: He was just crying, he was in too much pain with blood oozing.
(Defence interrupts, “I hope the state attorney is not cross examining her own witness”)
Okuo: My Lord I am not cross examining my witness
Judge: Go ahead, it is your case.
(Defence lawyers cross examine the witness)
Nsubuga Mubiru: Can you confirm that you did not see the accident?
Ouma: No I did not.
Mubiru: Can you also confirm that apart from you hearing the lady telling the accident victim that she was sorry, there was nothing else of value to this court that you heard?
(Murmurs in court as Ouma stares at him in confusion and retorts ‘no!’)
Sarah Tuhairwe: (customer care manager at Face Technologies testifies)
Okuo: How did you get involved in this case?
Tuhairwe: We were asked by CID to verify her driving permit, being the agency mandated by government of Uganda to print, supply and issue driving permits.
Okuo: What did you find?
Tuhairwe: She (accused) acquired her driving permit in February 2002 and came to change from the booklet to computerized permit on 29th April 2006
Defence lawyers: No cross examination
Prosecution: We rest our case for today.
Mubiru: We are ready to provide our defence on Monday my Lord.
Judge: I pronounce that from the evidence so far presented to this court, the accused has a case to answer.
(Court adjourns to Monday)