CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An east Charlotte father who survived tornadoes that ravaged his neighborhood in March, is dead after his car was hit head on by an underage drunk driver who may have also been speeding, said police Saturday.
Reinaldo Montejo Rodriguez died on the way to the hospital after the crash on Reedy Creek Road just before 1 a.m. Saturday. He had just pulled out of his neighborhood with his wife Maritza and younger daughter Dahimi, 16, for a Father’s Day trip to Miami.
Police charged Steven Bennie Driggers, 20, with felony death by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter, according to jail records. A police statement said Driggers is also charged with DWI and driving after drinking under 21 years of age.
Saturday afternoon, Maritza and Dahimi spoke to NewsChannel 36 after they were released from the hospital. They said they were “heartbroken” by the sudden loss of their husband and father.
Rodriguez’s former wife and oldest daughter described how Rodriguez had brought his family to the U.S. from Cuba five years ago to find a better life. Several friends from San Fuegos, Cuba, who were at Rodriguez’s sister’s house to comfort the family, described him as a hard-working family man with a positive attitude.
Neighbors said the same thing.
Russell Rowe said he loved having Rodriguez and his family over for dinner because Rowe’s wife is from Colombia and Rowe, himself, speaks Spanish.
“I loved the guy, when he came over to my house, for my or my wife's birthday, it felt like family,” he said.
Rowe said Rodriguez worked as a handyman at a local apartment complex and used his skills to help his friends.
“When I had a couple of electrical issues at my house he came over and helped me,” said Rowe. “When I had a couple of plumbing problems, he came over and helped me,” he added with a laugh.
The neighborhood needed a lot of help in March, when tornadoes blew through – destroying three homes, and blowing the one next door to the Rodriguez family off its foundation.
Rodriguez and Rowe helped each other make repairs. Rodriguez missed the worst damage, but tragedy struck his neighborhood again this weekend.
“God’s in control,” said Rowe. “I don't know.”