There are only two people who know what caused Bobby Petrino's cherry red Harley-Davidson Road King to skid off the highway earlier this month: Bobby Petrino and Jessica Dorrell. In the police report, Dorrell told officers "she did not know what caused this accident." Petrino's statement indicated that "because of sun and wind I could not maneuver the turn." In the absence of other witnesses, police have had to accept this explanation as truth.
Actually, it can be checked. And it doesn't check out.
The site Throwing Anvils put on their science caps, and ran a thorough fact-checking of the astronomical and meteorological conditions at the exact time and location of Petrino's accident. (Update: Friends of the Program did something similar. By consulting the U.S. Navy's sun altitude charts, they ask the question: is there any chance the sun could have been in Petrino's eyes at 6:30 p.m.?)S
This is a Google Maps satellite view of Highway 16, with the red arrow representing Petrino's location and direction. (The exact longitude and latitude are indicated in the police report.) The first thing to notice is that the curve was incredibly gentle. The second thing to notice is, despite the report listing Petrino heading west in the westbound lane, is that he was more strictly traveling northwest—and about as close to due north as possible. That puts the sun, at 6:30, almost directly to his left.
Even if Petrino had been facing the sun head on, it's unlikely it would have been in his eyes. Throwing Anvils put together this triangulation to show the altitude of the sun in the sky (the pink line), and it's well below the tree line. (Remember, this is just the altitude, not the angle. The sun was over his left shoulder.)
Add to that the rise of the surrounding terrain, and at the time Bobby Petrino crashed, the sun was well off to his side, below the tops of the trees, and possibly blocked by the hills.
The wind is harder to pin down than the sun, but again, the evidence is against Petrino's claim in the police report. At the weather station in Fayetteville, about 15 miles away from the crash site, there are hourly logs of wind speed and direction. Throwing Anvils pulls the data, and it shows the wind was consistently from the south at 15 mph. It was breezy, but not gusty, and Petrino had a constant tailwind. Not a dangerous crosswind.S
All of this detective work doesn't conclusively prove anything, and the cause of the crash isn't under investigation. In the grand scheme it doesn't matter if Petrino drove his bike off the road because of the sun and wind, or a chupacabra dashing in front of him, or some over-the-pants hand action from his passenger. But Petrino has lied about plenty so far. We wouldn't put it past him to lie about the very positioning of the earth itself.
Astronomy, Math, and Bobby Petrino: An Adventure In (More) Lies [Throwing Anvils]
CSI FOTP: Bobby Petrino is Full of So Much Shit [Friends of the Program]