Newberry Superintendent Bennie Bennett, 56, died Saturday when his vehicle collided with a deputy’s patrol car that was responding to a call, according to the Newberry County Coroner’s Office.
The wreck happened at 6:26 p.m. at the intersection of S.C. 219 and Chapman Drive near Newberry High School.
Deputy David Brandt with the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office was driving north on S.C. 219 with the lights and sirens activated on his patrol car while heading to a report of an overturned vehicle on Interstate 26, according to a sheriff's office release.
Bennett's vehicle entered the intersection from Chapman Drive as the deputy's vehicle was approaching, the release said, and the vehicles collided.
Bennett was ejected from his vehicle and died at the scene, according to the coroner’s office.
Brandt was unresponsive on the scene and was flown by helicopter to Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia. He was released Sunday morning and will receive outpatient treatment this week. He is currently on medical leave.
Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team is investigating.
Bennett, who spent 33 years as an educator, had served as Newberry’s superintendent since 2006.
Coroner Craig Newton said in a release that the community liked and respected Bennett.
“He served Newberry schools with professionalism, passion and pride,” Newton said. “He was truly a people person who loved his Lord, family and friends. He will be missed.”
Sheriff Lee Foster said in a release that Brandt is "devastated" about Bennett's death, as are all members of his office, as "they all new Mr. Bennett and looked to him with esteem."
Brandt has worked with the Sheriff’s Office since 2013 and was previously a member of the S.C. Army National Guard as a military police officer.
“This is a horrible loss for our community," Foster said. "Mr. Bennett was a consummate professional and had the best interest of our children at heart. We worked together closely on matters involving our schools and our children’ s safety.
"On a personal note, Mr. Bennett was a close friend and confidant. He and I had a keen interest in sports and would often compare notes on games. My family held him in the highest regard. I am personally shattered by his death. Our family extends our prayers to his family.”
The school district released the following statement: " The School District family and entire Newberry Community has lost an outstanding leader and even greater man. His passion for his family, his staff, his school district, and his students was exemplary. He leaves a legacy of dedication to God, his family, and public education. We request your continued prayers during this difficult time."
Before coming to Newberry, Bennett served as an athletic director, principal and assistant superintendent in the Clover School District.
A graduate of Winthrop University, Bennett was on the school’s first basketball team and was the college’s first player to score more than 1,000 career points. Bennett was the South Carolina Athletic Administration Association’s Superintendent of the Year for 2010 and received the Excellence in Education Award from Winthrop University in 1997.
Bennett is survived by a widow, Frankie Wright Bennett, and two children, Kelly and Brittany.