The superintendent of Newberry County schools died in a weekend traffic collision that also involved a sheriff’s deputy.
Bennie D. Bennett, 56, of Prosperity, died at the scene from his injuries in the Saturday night accident, Newberry County Coroner Craig Newton said in a news release Sunday. Bennett had been chief at Newberry County schools for 10 years.
“The school district family and entire Newberry community has lost an outstanding leader and even greater man,” the district said in a statement released Sunday. “His passion for his family, his staff, his school district and his students was exemplary.”
The collision occurred at 6:26 p.m. on S.C. 219 near Newberry High School, the coroner said, as Newberry County Sheriff's Deputy David Brandt was responding to a call for assistance at a traffic accident on I-26 near the Newberry/Lexington County line.
According to the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, Brandt was traveling north on S.C. 219 with his lights and siren on. As he approached the intersection of the driveway to Newberry High, a vehicle driven by Bennett entered the highway from Chapman Drive and the vehicles collided, the sheriff’s office said. .
Bennett was ejected from his vehicle and died immediately, Chief Deputy Coroner Lewis Lee said in a statement.
The deputy initially was unresponsive and was taken to an area hospital, the sheriff’s office said, but added he was released Sunday morning. Details about his injuries were not available Sunday night, but the sheriff’s office said Brandt will undergo outpatient treatment this week and is on medical leave because of his injuries.
Sheriff Lee Foster said Brandt, who has been with the sheriff’s office since 2013, is devastated about Bennett’s death.
“All of our officers live here and educate their children in the school district of Newberry County. They all knew Mr. Bennett and looked to him with esteem,” Foster said in a statement. “This is a horrible loss for our community. 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.”
Jim Suber, assistant superintendent for operations and administration in Newberry County schools, worked with Bennett for almost a decade. He knew Bennett even longer, when both coached high school basketball.
“My teams had never competed against his teams, but as I talked to coaches around the state, I always heard people talk about the quality programs he ran and the quality of the players he developed,” Suber said Sunday.
Going forward, Suber said Bennett’s colleagues know he would want them to focus on the students – but that he will be missed as they continue through the school year.
“I don’t know that anybody can replace a man of his quality,” Suber said. “He certainly leaves a legacy that all of us will be honored to follow.”
Bennett is survived by a wife and two children.
The S.C. Highway Patrol and the Coroner’s Office are investigating the accident.
Contributing: Staff writers Glen Luke Flanagan, Noah Feit