Aiken Public Safety still investigating accident; driver speaks out
No charges have been filed in a vehicle accident on Saturday that left one person dead and another in the hospital, and the Aiken Department of Public Safety will continue its investigation this morning.
Aiken resident Lukisha Nicole Thomas, 29, and a man, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., were struck while walking south on the sidewalk in the 800 block of York Street about 2 p.m., police said.
The 2006 Jeep, driven by Thomas G. Woodruff Jr. of Aiken, left the roadway and struck Thomas and Wooden, according to Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton.
When reached by phone for comment on Monday, Woodruff said he’s been instructed not to discuss details of the case.
“My heart goes out to the children of Ms. Thomas. I understand she has five children,” he said. “My heart goes out to those children and to her family. I’m deeply concerned about Mr. Wooden’s condition. I was, and still am, greatly distressed that this happened. I can’t discuss the details.”
Thomas and Wooden were transported by ambulance to Georgia Regents University, where Thomas died during surgery at approximately 3:40 p.m., Carlton said.
Thomas’s 2-year-old son was with her when the incident happened. He was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, treated and released.
An autopsy on Monday confirmed that the cause of death for Thomas was multiple body trauma, Carlton said. Toxicology results won’t be available for about two weeks.
Wooden was in stable condition on Sunday night, according to Lt. Karl Odenthal, a spokesman for Aiken Public Safety.
A small arrangement of flowers wrapped in pink paper had been placed at the accident site on Monday. On the sidewalk and roadway near the flowers was a series of orange spray-painted lines and circles.
An accident reconstruction team with Aiken Public Safety was on the scene Saturday, and will be on the scene again this morning, Odenthal said. “It’ll give precise measurements on a more accurate scale. They’ve marked everything from the scene with marking paint and a measurement wheel,” Odenthal said.
It could take two to three weeks for the team to finish its report, which the officers will then take to the Solicitor’s Office to discuss what charges, if any, will be appropriate, Odenthal said.
The team will be examining such factors as skid marks, the point of impact and where the bodies landed, Odenthal said.
The team’s preliminary findings indicate that the vehicle left the roadway and struck the victims, who were on the sidewalk, Odenthal said.
According to the incident report, Woodruff told officers “something out of the driver side of his vehicle caught his attention and distracted him.” Woodruff then heard a “loud bump” and realized he had struck the pedestrians, the report stated.
Officers on the scene provided initial care for the victims, who were lying underneath a parked rental truck, according to the report.
“We don’t believe alcohol or drugs were an influencing factor in terms of the operator of the vehicle,” Odenthal said.
Odenthal said the northbound lanes near the accident site on York Street will be closed for about an hour and a half this morning. Traffic will be diverted to the center turn lane.
“We ask that the public and the community have patience with us,” he said. “We want to make sure we get it right. Those are not the final findings. We’re still actively investigating it, crunching numbers and placing physical evidence on the scene and trying to determine what happened. The victim in this case doesn’t have a voice; she can’t tell us, so we have to piece it together from physical evidence. We have to make sure we get it right.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.