Newberry County’s education community is in shock after the county school superintendent was identified as the victim in a fatal collision with a sheriff’s deputy this weekend.
Troopers with the South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash that killed 56-year-old Bennie Bennett of Pomaria on Saturday evening, according to Cpl. Sonny Collins. “The Newberry County Sheriff’s deputy was responding to a call with lights and sirens activated… traveling north on SC 219 when his patrol vehicle collided with another vehicle.”
The deputy was initially unresponsive and was transported to a landing zone near Pomaria for medical evacuation to a trauma center in Columbia. The county coroner’s office said Bennett was ejected from his vehicle and died on the scene. The deputy was released from the hospital on Sunday morning and will undergo outpatient treatment this week.
The crash occurred across the street from Newberry High School.
Sheriff Lee Foster said the deputy is “devastated” by the superintendent’s death. “Mr. Bennett was a close friend and confidant. He and I had a keen interest in sports and would often compare notes on games,” Foster said in a statement reported by Newberry affiliate WKDK. “My family held him in the highest regard. I am personally shattered by his death. Our family extends our prayers to his family.”
Since the crash involved a Newberry County deputy, it is being investigated by the state Highway Patrol.
Bennett’s death was felt by education leaders statewide. He had served as superintendent of the county’s only school district for the past decade. He also previously worked as an assistant superintendent in the York County school system. Prior to his time in administration, Bennett was a basketball coach at Fort Mill and Clover high schools. He is also one of the leading career scorers in Winthrop University basketball history and was a member of its first men’s basketball team in 1978.
“Superintendent Bennett was a well-respected education leader who will be greatly missed by many and remembered as an outstanding, dedicated educator who was passionate about students and public education,” SC School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Price said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Superintendent Bennett’s family, the Newberry County community and everyone affected by this tragic loss.”
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
So far, 251 deaths have been reported on South Carolina roadways in 2016, down slightly from 270 deaths by the same point at year earlier.