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Driver charged with vehicular homicide after passenger dies in Saturday crash
Four teens in other vehicle escape serious injury
Delfino Sanchez Mendoza
Delfino Sanchez Mendoza

The Georgia State Patrol charged Delfino Sanchez Mendoza of a Bird Road, Statesboro, address, with first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI and other charges after a head-on collision with another vehicle Saturday night on Georgia Highway 67 caused the death of Mendoza’s passenger, Reynaldo de los Santos Ruiz.

Mendoza, 23, was driving a blue Chevrolet Cruze northbound in a southbound lane of Highway 67, in an area where it is a four-lane road divided by a grassed median, south of the Emit Grove Church Road, according to the Georgia State Patrol. About 11:30 p.m., Mendoza’s vehicle crashed head-on into a gray Audi A-3 driven southbound by a 16-year-old with three other teenage juveniles as passengers.

Ruiz, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mendoza, with minor injuries, and the four teenagers from the Audi were transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center. None received serious injuries and all were soon released, GSP Cpl. Ty Brooks said Monday. He was completing the preliminary accident report, and a Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team was assigned to the investigation.


Charged that night

But state troopers went ahead and charged Mendoza after he was released from the hospital. He was booked into the Bulloch County Jail at 4 a.m. Sunday. In addition to driving under the influence of alcohol and first-degree, or felony, homicide by vehicle, the charges include driving on the wrong side of the road, driving without a valid license and having an open alcohol container in the vehicle.

A witness arriving on the scene had removed Mendoza from his vehicle, but Ruiz was trapped on the passenger side, according to the investigating trooper. The vehicle also caught fire, but fire was not the cause of the death of Ruiz, who died from the impact, Brooks said.

The passenger-side front of both vehicles were the areas of greatest impact, “headlight to headlight almost. It’s still considered a head-on collision, but more of the impact was toward the passenger side,” he said.

Only Mendoza was charged, and the State Patrol was not naming the four teenagers from the Audi. In addition to the 16-year-old female driver, they included a 16-year-old female passenger and two 15-year-old male passengers.

The teenagers were wearing seatbelts, and airbags in the Audi activated, Brooks said.

He said that, because of the fire in the Chevy Cruze, he did not know if its airbags deployed or if Mendoza and Ruiz were wearing seatbelts.

Emergency personnel kept the southbound lanes of Georgia Highway 67, which becomes Fair Road nearer Statesboro, closed for two to three hours while the scene was investigated and the vehicles were removed. It was the final night of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, and the teenagers told Brooks they had just left the Fair.

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