Charges dropped against truck driver in crash that killed 4-year-old Myrtle Beach girl

akelley@thesunnews.comMay 1, 2013 

— Charges are dropped against the driver of a truck in a crash that killed a young Myrtle Beach girl last year.

Vincente Virola Rodriguez had been charged with reckless homicide last November related to the crash that killed 4-year-old Jada Bennett, but those charges were dropped about six weeks ago, according to Jimmy Richardson, 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor.

Rodriguez was driving a tractor-trailer that crashed into an SUV that Bennett was a passenger in on March 31, 2012. The crash happened on U.S. 501 in front of Tanger Outlet. Bennett, who was in a child safety seat when the crash happened, died from a head injury suffered in the wreck.

Richardson said that during a hearing in March, an Horry County magistrate judge found there wasn’t probable cause to show Rodriguez was criminally negligent.

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 the vehicle the girl was in.

“I was disappointed for the mom and the family, but I certainly wasn’t surprised,” Richardson said of the judge’s decision. “We knew it was a long shot. I just felt like there should be a higher standard for a truck, an 18-wheeler.”

Richardson said his argument was centered on the specialized training that commercial drivers receive and the knowledge of how long it takes to stop a vehicle that large.

“It takes about the length of two football fields to stop one of those,” he said. “That’s what pushed me over the edge. If that’s the case, you can’t take your eyes off the road.”

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, hitting the SUV Bennett was riding in. A minivan, also involved in the crash, and the SUV had slowed for traffic, the report said.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.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.

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