A 12-year veteran Clay County sheriff’s deputy died late Tuesday from injuries he suffered Sunday in a traffic crash while on duty in Orange Park.
Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports Ben Zirbel, 40, of Middleburg passed away at Orange Park Medical Center where he’d been hospitalized since the crash, said Sheriff Darryl Daniels who was accompanied by Zirbel’s widow, Anna, and Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Steven Harris, at a Wednesday news conference.
“He perished as a result of his injuries,” Daniels said. “Ben was a good man. You hate when bad things happen to to good people. ... He was active in the community, and he leaves a good legacy behind.”
Anna Zirbel said her husband is helping others live because he was a registered organ donor. She urged people to become organ donors. Anna Zirbel also thanked the Sheriff’s Office and community for their love, support and prayers.
The father of an 8-year-old son, Zirbel is the first Clay deputy to die in the line of duty in six years. He is the ninth in the agency’s history. The previous fatality was detective David White, 35, who was killed Feb. 16, 2012, during a meth house raid.
A member of the Sheriff’s Office traffic unit, Zirbel was riding his agency motorcycle during his regular work shift when the crash happened shortly before 11 a.m. on Blanding Boulevard at Camp Francis Johnson Road in Orange Park.
The Florida Highway Patrol said a pickup truck towing a utility lawn trailer turned into the path of Zirbel’s motorcycle. The pickup driver, 35-year-old Stephen M. Schioppa of Orange Park, failed to yield the right-of-way to Zirbel, who took evasive action to try to avoid the collision, the Highway Patrol said.
The front of Zirbel’s BMW police motorcycle hit the right side of the trailer. After the impact, the motorcycle overturned — ejecting Zirbel onto the pavement.