Truck driver in crash that killed 4-year-old faces charges

The driver of a tractor-trailer that crashed into an SUV in March, killing a Myrtle Beach area four-year-old turned himself in to Horry County authorities about noon Wednesday.

Vincente Virola Rodriguez is charged with reckless homicide. Bond was set at $5,000 for Rodriguez in a hearing Wednesday afternoon and he was released from J. Reuben Long Detention Center at about 5 p.m.

Jada Bennett died from a head injury she suffered in the crash that 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.

Rodriguez, the Florida truck driver, and Hartt Transportation Systems, Inc. also are defendants in two separate lawsuits related to the crash. One was filed by Jada’s mother Miriam Bennett in U.S. District Court in August seeking a jury trial for wrongful death.

The other was filed by Tarence Ledal Johnson, the driver of a minivan involved in the crash, in Horry County on Oct. 26. That suit also seeks a jury trial for punitive and actual damages for the “severe and painful personal injuries” Johnson received in the crash.

Jada Bennett 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 that Johnson was driving.

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, according to a report from the S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team. The minivan and the SUV Bennett was riding in had slowed for traffic ahead of them.

Cell phone use and speed contributed to the crash, 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.

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.