Warrant sought for driver in crash that killed 4-year-old Horry County girl

akelley@thesunnews.comNovember 14, 2012 

— Days after the S.C. Highway Patrol released the final report in crash that killed a young Myrtle Beach-area girl authorities announced that charges are pending.

Jimmy Richardson, deputy solicitor with the 15th Judicial Circuit, said the S.C. Highway Patrol will seek an arrest warrant charging the driver of a tractor-trailer that crashed into an SUV with reckless homicide.

Four-year-old Jada Bennett died from a head injury she suffered in the crash, which occurred about 1 p.m. March 31 on U.S. 501 in front of Tanger Outlet. She was in a child safety seat when the crash happened.

In August, Jada’s mother Miriam Bennett filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the Florida tractor-trailer driver, Vincente Virola Rodriguez, and Hartt Transportation Systems, Inc. seeking a jury trial for wrongful death.

Jada suffered from severe physical pain, mental anguish, emotional distress and the knowledge of impending death following the crash, according to the suit.

The funeral and burial costs, the suit said, are a direct result of the “negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, wanton and willful acts of,” the driver and Hartt Transportation.

The suit alleges Rodriguez failed to maintain proper lookout, proper control of his vehicle, apply his brakes or to maintain the same, to take evasive action to avoid the crash and failed to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of him.

According to the final report from the S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team, the truck driver was using a cell phone and traveling too fast for conditions when his truck struck the rear of a vehicle the girl was in.

The suit states that Hartt Transportation was negligent for failing to properly train Rodriguez.

Miriam Bennett, and her beneficiaries, have suffered pecuniary loss, loss of society and companionship, loss of moral guidance, emotional distress and grief, shock and sorrow following the crash and Jada’s death, according to the suit.

She is seeking to recover for actual and punitive damages and court costs. According to court documents, the earliest the case would likely go to trial is next summer.

Prosecutors reviewed the evidence in the crash this week before reaching the decision to move forward with charges Wednesday, Richardson said.

Jada was riding with her family in a sport utility vehicle when it was struck in the rear by the tractor-trailer and forced into a minivan in front of it.

The crash occurred in a northbound lane of U.S. 501 when the tractor-trailer went through the intersection of U.S. 501 and Waccamaw Pines Drive. The report showed the minivan and the SUV Bennett was riding in had slowed for traffic ahead of them.

The tractor-trailer was traveling at 50 miles per hour in the center lane of U.S. 501, which is five miles below the speed limit, according to the report. Drivers in the SUV and the minivan were going 40 mph.

Several people were hurt in the crash and were taken to local hospitals.

Troopers with the accident investigation team did not find any mechanical failures with the vehicles and reconstructed the scene for their investigation using forensic mapping, audio and video recordings and photographs.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.

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