Forensic Engineering Analysis of Projectile Thrown from Phantom Vehicle


  • Richard Ziernicki, PhD, PE, DFE Knott Laboratory
  • William Pierce, PE Knott Laboratory
  • Angelos Leiloglou Knott Laboratory



Phantom vehicle, photogrammetry, projectile analysis, process of elimination, point cloud, material testing, semi, windshield damage, vehicle tracking pad, Phoenix


This paper presents a case study involving an 8-lb “projectile” piece of concrete thrown from a phantom vehicle into the windshield of a semi-tractor truck, subsequently striking the driver’s (plaintiff’s) head. A witness told the investigating officer that the phantom vehicle was a white-rear dump truck similar to the trucks he’d seen coming in and out of a construction entrance at a nearby park. However, no follow-up investigation was conducted by investigative officers. The lead author was retained by the plaintiff’s attorney to follow up and investigate the witness’ observation of the phantom white-rear dump truck in an attempt to identify the probable source of the concrete projectile, locate the phantom vehicle, reconstruct the incident, and determine the probable cause of the incident. Several forensic engineering techniques were used during the forensic engineering investigation, including evidence analysis, photography, high-definition scanning, photogrammetry, evaluation of the accident timeline, physical testing, case study analysis, projectile analysis, and application of the process of elimination methodology. Through the forensic engineering analysis, the probable source of the projectile concrete was identified, the white-rear dump truck and driver were identified, the accident was reconstructed, and the probable cause of the accident was determined.


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How to Cite

Ziernicki, PhD, PE, DFE, Richard, William Pierce, PE, and Angelos Leiloglou. 2021. “Forensic Engineering Analysis of Projectile Thrown from Phantom Vehicle”. Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers 37 (1).