In 1971 J. Standard Baker Quoted " Drivers Towing Trailers  Are Four (4) Times As Unsafe As Those In Cars Alone! 

By Dan Scanlan

By Teresa Stepzinski
Posted Aug 22, 2018 at 4:51 PM Updated Aug 22, 2018 at 4:51 PM

“Ben was a good man. You hate when bad things happen to to good people,” said Sheriff Darryl Daniels. “He was active in the community, and he leaves a good legacy behind.”

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — 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.

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.

The collision was the second fatal crash killing a Northeast Florida law enforcement officer within three months. Officer Lance Whitaker, 48, a 17-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, died when his patrol car crashed in rainy conditions about 4:30 a.m. May 15 on Interstate 295 as he was en route to another wreck.

The Highway Patrol is leading the investigation into the crash. Daniels said it was possible Schioppa was distracted. That would explain why he turned in front of Zirbel, who was driving straight down the road.

Addressing reports of death threats against Schioppa, Daniels said Zirbel wouldn’t have wanted that sort of thing.

Now retired, Sheriff Rick Beseler had hired Zirbel in 2006. Family, serving the community and being a motorman were Zirbel’s passions, Beseler said.

“It’s heartbreaking. What a fine young man he was. This is just so devastating,” Beseler said.

Beseler last saw Zirbel, also a member of the agency’s Honor Guard, at the 2016 Sheriff’s Office Police Memorial service. Zirbel limped slightly — the only outward sign of the multiple injuries he suffered in 2015 when his motorcycle hit a slick spot on the road and crashed as he chased a suspect in Keystone Heights.

“He came up to me and he said, ‘I just wanted you to see how well I’m doing with my recovery. ... I’m going to return to full duty and I’m going to get back on that motorcycle.’ That was his goal, to get back on that motorcycle,” Beseler said.

Beseler said he didn’t think Zirbel would be able to return to the motorcycle unit given the severity of his injuries back then.

“He had such determination and such a drive to do that,” Beseler said. “He loved being on that motor, and he loved helping people. He wanted to get back to it and that was his No. 1 goal.”

Zirbel and his wife are former Charles City, Iowa, residents and both graduated high school there. His father, Jim Zirbel, is a former Charles City police chief, while her father is a businessman in the city, according to the Charles City Press.

A VyStar account has been set up for Zirbel and his family. The account number is 7507565803 and donations can be made at any branch, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

People also can contribute to a GoFundMe account for Zirbel’s family at gofundme.com/deputy-ben-zirbel-family.

Teresa Stepzinski and Dan Scanlan write for the Florida Times-Union.

No training, No license anybody can drive a utility trailer.  Let's be honest we all have had close call's...but we were only driving a car. 

When you tow a trailer your vehicle is now 16 feet long when we include the trailer attached to your vehicle.

Yes I do blame the Utility Trailer Industry for not helping us establish a "Towing Section" in all drivers manuals in every state of the Nation.

The Person Pulled Out In Front Of The Officer....The Officer Hit The Trailer.

Fla. sheriff's deputy dies from crash injuries

The officer leaves behind a wife, Anna, and their 8-year-old son

Duty Death: Ben Zirbel - [Clay County, Florida]

End of Service: 08/21/2018

Yesterday at 1:58 PM

By Dan Scanlan and Teresa Stepzinski
The Florida Times-Union

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. — 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.

Ben Zirbel, 40, of Middleburg passed away at Orange Park Medical Center where he'd been hospitalized since the crash, Sheriff Darryl Daniels said at a Wednesday news conference.[Pictured is Deputy Sheriff Ben Zirbel. (Photo/Clay County Sheriff)]
Pictured is Deputy Sheriff Ben Zirbel. (Photo/Clay County Sheriff)

"Ben was a good man. ...His memory will not be forgotten. And him falling in the line of duty will not be in vain," Daniels said, noting the Sheriff's Office is grieving along with Zirbel's family, whom it is embracing as its own.

Zirbel leaves behind a wife, Anna, and their 8-year-old son.

Anna Zirbel attended the news conference. "We will always miss him, but we know that his kindness and his big heart will live within all of us," she said.

She said her husband might be gone, but he is helping others live. Zirbel was a registered organ donor, she said.

"Ben's passion in life was to help people, which is why he became a sheriff's deputy," his widow said. "It gives me comfort to say that with his death, he may be helping save the lives of at least seven other individuals with his organs."

She urged people to become registered organ donors. She also thanked the Sheriff's Office and the community — residents as well as law enforcement officers statewide — for their outpouring of love, support and prayers.

Zirbel is the ninth fatality in the agency's history. The last was detective David White, 35, who was killed Feb. 16, 2012, during a meth house raid. It also was the second fatal crash killing a Northeast Florida law enforcement officer within three months. Officer Lance Whitaker, 48, a 17-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, died when his patrol car crashed in rainy conditions about 4:30 a.m. May 15 on Interstate 295 as he was en route to another wreck.

A member of the Sheriff's Office traffic unit, Zirbel was riding his agency motorcycle during a regular work shift when the crash happened shortly before 11 a.m. on Blanding Boulevard at Camp Francis Johnson Road in Orange Park.

The 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 tried 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 crash, the motorcycle overturned — throwing Zirbel onto the pavement.

"It's very unfortunate that I have a guy traveling down the street enforcing traffic laws and fell victim to the very violation of those laws that he was sworn to enforce," Daniels said.

No citations or charges had been filed as of Wednesday.

Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Steven Harris said his agency "will take the appropriate amount of time" to complete the investigation. Normally it would take 90 days, but it could be longer depending on circumstances.

Court records in Clay and Duval counties show only one minor traffic citation 18 years ago for Schioppa, who couldn't be reached for comment. The Highway Patrol has said he was cooperating and very upset about what happened.

Daniels said Schioppa has been receiving death threats via social media since the crash. Zirbel would not have wanted or approved of that, he said.

Daniels also pledged "that if it's the last thing that I do, I will ensure that the Clay County Sheriff's Office is represented at the table with legislators to ensure that distracted driving and texting while driving is made a primary offense in this state."

Zirbel died doing what he loved, said those who knew him.

Now retired, Sheriff Rick Beseler had hired Zirbel in 2006. Family, serving the community and being a Sheriff's Office motorman were Zirbel's passions, Beseler said.

"It's heartbreaking. What a fine young man he was. This is just so devastating," Beseler said in a telephone interview.

Beseler last saw Zirbel, who also was a member of the agency's Honor Guard, at the 2016 Sheriff's Office Police Memorial service. Zirbel limped slightly — the only outward sign of the multiple injuries he suffered in 2015 when his motorcycle hit a slick spot on the road and crashed as he chased a suspect in Keystone Heights.

"He came up to me and he said, 'I just wanted you to see how well I'm doing with my recovery. ... I'm going to return to full duty and I'm going to get back on that motorcycle.' That was his goal, to get back on that motorcycle," Beseler said.

Beseler said he didn't think Zirbel would be able to return to the motorcycle unit given the severity of his injuries back then.

"He had such determination and such a drive to do that," Beseler said. "He loved being on that motor, and he loved helping people. He wanted to get back to it and that was his No. 1 goal."

Zirbel and his wife are former Charles City, Iowa, residents and both graduated high school there. His father, Jim Zirbel, is a former Charles City police chief, while her father is a businessman in the city, according to the Charles City Press.

Daniels said Zirbel was well-liked and active in the community.

"He leaves a good legacy behind," Daniels said. "That's all we can do in this life is try to leave a good legacy behind where we impacted lives as positively as we can so the memories we leave behind us as individuals will be something positively spoken about when someone mentions our names."

A VyStar account has been set up for Zirbel and his family. The account number is 7507565803 and donations can be made at any branch, according to the Sheriff's Office.

People also can contribute to a GoFundMe account for Zirbel's family at gofundme.com/deputy-ben-zirbel-family.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized Wednesday.

©2018 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)