Logging truck's brakes defective

CHESTER -- The logging truck that crashed into a minivan March 26 and killed two Lewisville Elementary School students had defective brakes, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Details about the crash were discussed at a probable cause hearing Wednesday inside the magistrate's courtroom at the Chester County Law Center.

Magistrate Dianne Moore ruled that authorities had probable cause to arrest Chester's George Rogers, the 51-year-old logging truck driver who was charged with two counts of reckless homicide in April. The ruling allows prosecutors' case against Rogers to move forward.

Moore told the court that her decision was based on Rogers' responsibility to check the brakes as required by his commercial driver's license.

Troopers say Rogers was heading west on S.C. 9 in Richburg when he ran a red light and slammed into a minivan at the Lewisville High School Road intersection just as school was getting out.

The crash killed 9-year-old Hannah Quinton and 7-year-old Nicholas Cherry. Hannah's mother, Alice, was driving the van. Hannah's 7-year-old brother, Timmy, and Nicholas' 5-year-old sister, Taylor, were passengers. Alice Quinton, Timmy Quinton and Taylor Cherry were flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. All have since been released.

In court Wednesday morning, Cpl. James Rikard of the Highway Patrol's collision reconstruction team testified that a mechanical specialist found "numerous defects" with the tractor trailer, including problems with the brakes and tires.

Rikard said the loaded 80,000-pound vehicle had 10 brakes, but only four were working at the time of the crash.

Because Rogers was driving under a commercial driver's license, he was responsible for checking the tractor trailer before a trip to be sure the vehicle was working properly, Rikard said.

Carl B. Grant, the Columbia attorney representing Rogers, contended that the primary responsibility for checking the brakes lies with the owner of the truck, not his client.

He also said Rogers wasn't speeding and tried to alert Alice Quinton by sounding his horn when he couldn't stop, signs he maintained didn't point to criminality.

"This obviously is a very tragic situation, but it is an accident," Grant said. "There is no evidence that rises to the level of criminal intent."

Prosecutor Chris Taylor disagreed.

Taylor said Rogers had a responsibility to ensure his truck was working correctly. He also said Rogers was approaching a red light and didn't try to stop until it was too late.

The case now will be presented to the grand jury for a second time. When the grand jury first heard the case, jurors wanted more information before deciding whether to indict Rogers on the charges.

If the grand jury indicts Rogers, the action would clear the way for the case to go to trial. Most cases that go before a grand jury result in indictments.