Big rig driver charged in fatal crash bonds out of jail - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Big rig driver charged in fatal crash bonds out of jail

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The man charged in a fatal crash that killed 4-year-old Jada Bennett in March 2012 has bonded out of the J Reuben Long Detention Center.

According to J Reuben Long detention Center records, Vincente Virola Rodriguez posted bail just after 5 P.M. Wednesday night.

Horry County Assistant Solicitor Jimmy Richardson and his team worked hard examining the evidence in this case before seeking warrants against the tractor-trailer driver.

That man, Vincente Rodriguez of Florida, turned himself in to authorities and was charged with vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rodriguez had a bond hearing in J. Reuben Long and was given the maximum allowable recognizance bond for his charge, $5,000.

Rodriguez's attorney, Morgan Martin, says granting bond was the only logical move for the judge to make, and he believes his client has not committed a crime.

"I think it's clear looking at the warrant what we've got here is tragic situation where a child has died," Martin says. "That's certainly regrettable, but this is an accident, not a crime."

During the bond hearing, Rodriguez was told he would not be allowed to have any contact with the Bennett family, but would be allowed to return to his home in Florida until his trial date.

Jada Bennett's mother, Miriam Bennett, says she had hoped Rodriguez would stay in jail until he goes on trial.

"We all make mistakes, [and] I'm not perfect," Bennett says.  "But we also have to learn from our mistakes."

Rodriguez says she requested to speak with the judge during Wednesday's hearing, but the judge denied that request.  Bennett's legal counsel, Jill Wright, says it should not be surprising the judge granted Rodriguez bond.

"The fact that [Rodriguez turned himself in makes him less of a flight risk," Wright says. "This particular driver didn't have any criminal record, so unfortunately the judge's hands are tied."

An Horry County attorney has also filed a civil lawsuit against the Florida truck driver, seeking actual and punitive damages and legal costs.

After months of investigating, the South Carolina Highway Patrol determined cell phone use and speed contributed to the crash.

The crash occurred on March 31 on Highway 501, just in front of the Tanger Outlets, when a tractor trailer rear-ended the SUV her father was driving.

Several other passengers, including the driver of the tractor trailer were transported to a local hospital for treatment after the crash that shut down northbound Highway 501 for several hours that Saturday afternoon.

The Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team studied the scene using forensic mapping, audio and video recordings, photographs and a mechanical examination of the tractor-trailer.

They discovered that the tractor-trailer's driver was operating a cell phone at the time the crash occurred. They also report that while the vehicle was in proper working condition, engine control data indicated the "last hard brake speed of 39 to 48 miles per hour."

The report estimates he was driving 50 miles per hour in the center lane of Highway 501. Though it wasn't driving over the speed limit, the driver was traveling too fast for conditions.

Both of the other vehicles were driving 40 miles per hour.

It could take anywhere from 6 months to a year before Rodriguez's trial begins.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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