After inspecting the wreckage Friday, Chris Cannatella believes a Scottsdale crash that killed his brother was caused by a blowout, not a medical condition.
Michael Cannatella, 36, his wife, Alicia, 34, and her son, Erik Scoggins, 15, were killed in the March 5 crash on Loop 101 near Thomas Road.
The lone survivor, 8-year-old Michael Angelo Cannatella, a second-grader at Scottsdale’s Yavapai Elementary School, remains in critical condition and on life support at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
"I now know what did this," Chris Cannatella said. "I’m taking pictures of the car right now for evidence. I don’t believe it was a medical condition my brother had, like people are saying. I believe he had a blowout."
Chris Cannatella, a Bedford, N.J., police and fire captain, said his examination of the 1990 GMC Safari his brother drove revealed a hole the size of his palm on the front passenger-side tire. He checked with detectives in New Jersey, who told him his findings are consistent with a blowout.
"This is exactly my territory (of investigation)," he said. "People have said he had a back injury and he’d lose feeling in his legs at times, but this was absolutely not from a medical condition. I was told no tires were flat, and I get here and see three of the four down.
"I believe it was caused by the road. I went there (Thursday) night and expected to see all concrete. Instead, it’s dirt and gravel (on the side). I couldn’t stand on it. It was like being on ball bearings. He might as well have been driving on ice. There should be barriers."
Chris Cannatella said he thinks his brother was trying to pull to the side of the road safely, and "as soon as he hit the gravel, he was dead."
Witnesses told officials that the van Michael Cannatella was driving, which was owned by his great-aunt, Catherine Addiego, picked up speed before veering off the freeway and up an embankment. It came down, crashed into the Thomas Road overpass and rolled over.
"I’m sure that possible blowouts are part of the ongoing investigation," said Arizona Department of Public Safety officer Steve Volden. "That’s not what the witnesses said, not that that’s gospel. We’re definitely looking into it."
Chris Cannatella said a magnetic resonance imaging test Thursday determined Michael Angelo had suffered a stroke.
"We’re just praying he will start breathing on his own again soon," Chris Cannatella said. Donations are being accepted at Bank One to defray the boy’s medical expenses and costs of the funerals. The account number is 689458016.
A benefit yard sale by the nonprofit group Positive Impact will continue at 8 a.m. today at 2331 E. Edgewood Circle in Mesa. For information, call (602) 809-8585.
Dorothy O’Connell of the Maricopa County Forensic Science Center said the cause of death is pending.
A memorial service for the victims will be 10 a.m. Monday at Calvary Chapel of Tri City, 2334 E. Southern Ave., Tempe.