The Aiken Department of Public Safety has charged Thomas Woodruff Jr., of Aiken with careless driving following a crash that occurred March 30, killing 29-year-old Lukisha Thomas and injuring another person.
Thomas was walking on a York Street sidewalk around 2 p.m. that day with her 2-year-old son and a man, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., when they were struck by a 2006 Jeep Cherokee driven by Woodruff, an Aiken attorney, police have said.
Thomas later died in surgery at Georgia Regents Medical Center. Wooden was hospitalized and is critically injured, according to police.
Thomas' 2-year-old son was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, treated and released.
Police said that during the investigation, officers conducted a technical reconstruction of the collision. Throughout the collision reconstruction process, officers examined evidence from the collision, analyzed data collected from the forensic mapping of the collision scene, and interviewed several witnesses and the driver of the vehicle, police said.
Investigating officers were able to rule out alcohol and/or drug impairment of Woodruff based on the observations of multiple officers on scene, who have been trained in advanced DUI detection, and through independent toxicology reports that indicated negative results in Woodruff's system for alcohol and/or drugs, police said.
Police also said they were able to rule out excessive speed as a contributing factor by using linear momentum, kinetic energy, and time and distance equations. This determination was based on the analysis of evidence and measurements collected from the scene, police said.
In addition to ruling out alcohol and/or drugs and speeding as contributing factors, officers found no indication that the use of a cellular phone or texting played a part in the collision, they reported.
Police state in a report released to the media that after reviewing the evidence, and interviewing several witnesses to the collision, investigating officers found no evidence that Woodruff was driving with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”, otherwise known as “reckless driving” or “reckless vehicular homicide” as defined in the South Carolina Code of Laws.
Police also stated that they found no evidence of criminal negligence by Woodruff. Police state in the release that criminal negligence must exist in order to be charged with the crime of “involuntary manslaughter” according to South Carolina Code of Laws. Criminal negligence is defined as “the reckless disregard of the safety of others.”
Police say the careless driving ordinance reads that “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle in a careless manner in disregard of the safety of persons or property upon any street, sidewalk, alley or parking area, public or private, within the corporate limits of the city."