COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A law enforcement source said Thursday the vehicle driven by Columbia Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin did not have its headlights on shortly before it slammed into another car early Wednesday morning.
The crash severely injured a woman on her way to work at the nearby Clarion Hotel on Gervais Street. Sources close to the victim's family said the woman is on life support.
Deborah Rubens was turning right onto Gervais Street from Pickens Street when the Toyota Tercel she was driving collided with Benjamin's eastbound Mercedes SUV, according to the initial Columbia Police Department report.
The crash happened at about 5:40 a.m., roughly an hour before sunrise.
Witnesses have indicated they saw the black SUV approaching the intersection.
Rescue workers had to cut Rubens out of the car. She was rushed to Palmetto Health Richland immediately after the accident. EMS officials originally said she was in fair condition.
Despite that initial assessment, two sources very close to the family say Rubens has been unconscious since the crash, she has head trauma, a crushed pelvis and multiple other injuries.
Doctors have told the family she may not walk again.
Due to privacy laws, the hospital has not released any information about Rubens' condition.
Rubens has worked at the Clarion Hotel for more than 10 years as a restaurant server. In fact, Sunday brunch regulars at the Clarion know her well because she worked every Sunday.
Columbia police are investigating the crash. The South Carolina Highway Patrol was called out nearly two hours after the collision.
The trooper said after speaking to and observing Benjamin at the scene there was no indication that he was impaired. Benjamin was examined by medics on the scene, but was not transported to the hospital. Benjamin did go to the hospital later in the day to get checked out.
The mayor-elect was on his way to a television appearance when the accident occurred.
Benjamin released a statement asking Columbia police officials to allow another law enforcement agency to participate in the investigation of the accident to remove the appearance of favoritism.
Mayor-elect Benjamin beat Councilman Kirkman Finlay in a runoff election Tuesday night. Benjamin will be the city's first African-American mayor.