Benjamin discusses wreck, citation for not using headlights - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Benjamin discusses wreck, citation for not using headlights

April 21 accident scene at Gervais and Pickens April 21 accident scene at Gervais and Pickens
Surveillance video appears to show Benjamin's SUV at the corner of Park and Gervais Surveillance video appears to show Benjamin's SUV at the corner of Park and Gervais
Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin speaks to reporters on Wednesday Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin speaks to reporters on Wednesday
Deborah Rubens, the victim Deborah Rubens, the victim

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin held a news conference Wednesday to discuss his April 21 car wreck and his citation for not turning on his headlights, which authorities said contributed to the wreck. Another citation was issued to Deborah Rubens for operating an uninsured vehicle.

Calling the accident "regrettable," Benjamin tried to clear the foggy air surrounding the incident.

The wreck happened just hours after Benjamin was elected mayor of the city of Columbia.  Benjamin's SUV collided with Rubens' car near Gervais and Pickens Streets in downtown Columbia around 5:40am April 21.

Benjamin said as he left the Hilton Hotel that morning, he believed his headlights were on.

As he entered the intersection of Gervais and Pickens, Benjamin says he was not distracted and was driving at a "reasonable rate of speed" when he saw Rubens' car make a right turn.

Unable to move out of the way in time, Benjamin said he hit Rubens.

"I noticed a vehicle suddenly entering the intersection from my right side and quite regrettably I was not able to avoid the accident," said Benjamin.

The wreck left Rubens fighting for her life with a severe head injury and multiple broken bones.  She is still in the hospital.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety is reviewing the investigation, but has not released its report to the Columbia Police Department yet. 

Meanwhile, CPD hit Benjamin with an $81 citation for not having his lights on. They have also cited Rubens for driving an uninsured vehicle.

The drama surrounding the wreck led to a confrontation between then-Police Chief Tandy Carter and city leaders after Carter refused to turn the investigation over to the state Highway Patrol. Carter ended up getting fired and filing a grievance.

On Tuesday, Benjamin met for the first time with the chairs of his transition team and committees set up to address community issues.   

Benjamin met with the four transition team co-chairs and the chairs of eight committees who will focus on issues important to the city.

"Over the course of the next month, we're going to get out across the city on the One Columbia listening tour," Benjamin told the team. "Community meetings around the city, and then we're going to begin a very aggressive visioning and strategic planning process. I just want to encourage all Columbians to get involved and help shape this city."

The team includes former Mayor pro tempore Luther Battiste, Midlands Technical College Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Dozier, entrepreneur Barbara Rackes and community activist Bessie Watson.

We've contacted both Rubens' attorney and Steve Benjamin for comment, but have not heard back.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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