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Crash & Burn
WriterJosh Berman
DirectorRichard J. Lewis
Original AirdateMarch 13, 2003
Previous Episode: Lucky Strike
Next Episode: Precious Metal

Crash & Burn is the seventeenth episode in season three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Sara finds out some disturbing news about her boyfriend Hank while she, Catherine and Warrick investigate a deadly accident, after an elderly woman crashes her car into a crowded restaurant. Meanwhile, Grissom and Nick find out that the death of a woman who died of carbon monoxide poisoning was not an accident.


Grissom, Catherine and Sara arrive on the scene of a fatal MVA. It appears that the lone female occupant of a Jaguar, who is apparently about 65 or 70 years old, has crashed into a restaurant full of diners. Also on the scene is Hank, Sara’s EMT boyfriend, but he’s not working: With a broken wrist and slight concussion, for the first time, Hank finds himself part of the scene instead of merely working it.

Grissom leaves the scene with Catherine and Sara taking the lead, having to meet Nick to investigate an apparent residential natural gas leak that resulted in a single fatality, despite the fact that there were three people in the house. At the new scene, Nick and Grissom note that the dead woman, Vanessa Arnz, is lying in bed and is hot pink in colour, which is an indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning versus natural gas. Randall Arnz, the dead woman’s husband is alive; claiming that he woke up because he was cold after his wife stole the blankets. Also in the house is the couple’s 18-year-old son, Peter. Grissom questions Peter, who is decidedly moody, but not showing any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Peter tells Grissom that he didn’t hear a thing until the police and paramedics arrived at their house.

Dr. Robbins has completed his autopsy on Diane Lambert and rules the cause of a death a subdural haematoma, from the impact of her head hitting the dashboard. After further investigation, Catherine and Warrick have discovered that Mrs. Lambert was going more than twice the speed limit at impact, and while she braked at impact, had apparently accelerated into the building. Sara completes a thorough check of the Jaguar, which is equipped with a GPS, and can see no mechanical reason for the crash. Sara asks Dr. Roberts to take another look at Mrs. Lambert to see if there were any pre-existing medical conditions that could account for the accident. Dr. Roberts notes there is a scar on Mrs. Lambert’s abdomen, indicating much earlier surgery. In addition, the tox screen indicated that Mrs. Lambert, who had glaucoma, had trace amount of marijuana in her system, but not enough to make her legally impaired. He also tells Sara that Mrs. Lambert had high levels of hormones in a her blood stream – the same hormones that are seen in the bodies of kamikaze pilots about to make their suicide run. Based on these facts, Sara theorizes that Mrs. Lambert intended to crash her car and kill herself and potentially others. The question is why.

Grissom and Nick head back at the Arnz crime scene. The medical examiner has determined that, despite Mrs. Arnz’s having a high level of a sleeping pill in her system, carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of death. The level in her blood was 46.2 % -- an extremely high figure, but which was somewhat elevated because she was a smoker. As a result of the findings, Nick proceeds to examine the fireplace in the Arnz’s bedroom. He notes that damper is not functioning properly and finds a foreign substance in the back of the fireplace. The two investigators go to speak to Mr. Arnz and Peter about their findings. When questioning Mr. Arnz, they ask him about the sleeping pills and he admits to putting the pills in his wife’s food. After a sixteen-hour work day, all he wants is sleep – and the best way to get it, he determined, was to give his wife the sleeping pills that were prescribed to him. They also ask him about the broken damper in the fireplace and he tells Grissom and Nick that Peter had been asked to fix it and told his father the job had been done. While speaking to Mr. Arnz, Grissom notices a nicotine patch on his arm. Gil asks him when he quit smoking, and Mr. Arnz indicates that it had been only about three weeks. Peter and Gil speak, and Peter tells Gil that he lied about fixing the damper, and displays open contempt for both of his parents.

In the interim, Catherine downloads DMV files and attaches pictures to restaurant seating plan. When it is clear that Hank was sitting with a woman named Elaine, Sara visits the woman at her home to find out not only what she knows about the accident, but also what she knows about Hank. At her home, Elaine tells Sara that she works for Sillmott Healthcare, an HMO. She agrees to check the company files to see if Diane Lambert was a client of Sillmott. In the apartment, Sara notices pictures of Elaine and Hank. Elaine notices Sara’s interest and tells her the picture is of her and her boyfriend on a trip – and that they are just about to take another one. Unsettled by this news, Sara leaves Elaine her card and asks her to get back to her on Diane Lambert.

The foreign substance found in the back of the Arnz’s fireplace is determined to be charcoal. Once again, Gil goes back to the Arnz crime scene. While examining a fish tank in Peter’s room, Peter returns to the house. As they begin to talk, it’s apparent Gil has done some digging on Peter Arnz and discovered that he’s highly intelligent. In fact, he has been offered early admission to Princeton. Nick and Gil further question Peter and find out that, while he has been offered admission to Princeton, he will not be going – his parents couldn’t afford to send him. Angry and resentful, he put the charcoal in his parents’ fireplace knowing the results. What he hadn’t noticed was his father quit smoking. By the time his father woke up, the carbon monoxide levels were only high enough to kill his mother. His father’s levels had returned to normal in the short time he had quit smoking, saving his life.

Catherine and Sara visit Elaine and a colleague at Sillmot Healthcare. Mrs. Lambert was a client of the HMO, and upon review of her file, Sara notes that Mrs. Lambert had requested approval for the treatment of a recurrence of colon cancer. Despite over 80 calls to their offices the previous month, Sillmott had not yet approved Mrs. Lambert’s request, causing Catherine and Sara to speculate out loud that Sillmott was actually hoping Mrs. Lambert would die before they would have to pay out for the treatment. The restaurant Mrs. Lambert crashed into was not only frequented by Sillmott employees, but had virtually the same address as the HMO – the restaurant was located at 16 North Meadows , while the HMO was located at 16 South Meadows. She had simply punched the wrong address into her GPS.

As she’s leaving the building, Sara runs into Hank. Hank apologizes – but clearly it’s not enough for Sara.


Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Wallace Langham as David Hodges
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Christopher Wiehl as Hank Peddigrew
  • Jeffrey D. Sams as Cyrus Lockwood
  • Joseph Patrick Kelly as Officer Joe Metcalf
  • Jonathan Tucker as Peter Arnz
  • Jeremy Roberts as Mr. Arnz
  • Dahlia Salem as Elaine Alcott
  • Christopher Gorham as Corey Lambert
  • Kevin Richardson as Fred Lychock
  • James Sutorius as Sillmont Health Insurance Rep.
  • Kim Gillingham as Vanessa Arnz
  • Tom Lagleder as Firefighter
  • Todd E. Slayton as Larry, Paramedic
  • Nicole Basanda as Rachel Krandall
  • John Dixon as Tom Krandall
  • Sandra Lee Gimpel as Diane Lambert
  • Christopher Leps as Bartender
  • Pat Millicano as Cameron Black

Major Events

  • This episode marks the final appearance of Hank Peddigrew. Sara broke up with him after she finds out she was the 'other woman' in the relationship.


Sara: An old Jaguar with a GPS unit. That's strange.
Catherine: Yeah, not your granny's Oldsmobile.


  • Wild Horses by The Sundays.


  • When Sara is showing Greg the route the old woman took in her car, she draws a blue line on the screen with her finger. When she says something about turning left she draws a continuous line to the "Meadows Lane," but when the shot changes and goes back the line is broken into two.
  • In the scene where David, Nick and Grissom are looking at the body of the woman who died from carbon monoxide, you can see the corpse breathing right after Nick leaves the room.
  • In the scene where Sara and Warrick are standing in front of the restaurant where the accident occurred a barricade was behind them. In some of the shots it was there and in others it wasn't.
  • In the last scene, neither Catherine or Sara are wearing a seat belt.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 3
Revenge is Best Served ColdThe Accused is EntitledLet the Seller BewareA Little MurderAbra-CadaverThe Execution of Catherine WillowsFight NightSnuffBlood LustHigh and LowRecipe for MurderGot Murder?Random Acts of ViolenceOne Hit WonderLady Heather's BoxLucky StrikeCrash & BurnPrecious MetalA Night at the MoviesLast LaughForeverPlay with FireInside the Box