Memorial ride held Saturday in honor of fallen Clay deputy

Clay County Deputy Ben Zirbel died last summer in Blanding Blvd. crash

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Seven months after a Clay County motorcycle deputy was killed in a crash while on duty, the sheriff’s office is continuing its mission to raise enough money to send his family and the county’s entire motor unit to Washington.

Clay County Deputy Ben Zirbel was on duty when he was hit by a vehicle at an intersection on Blanding Boulevard last summer and died from his injuries. He was part of a tight-knit community of law enforcement officers.

Zirbel will be honored for his service when his name is added to the national police memorial wall in Washington, D.C., in May. 

"That's just a huge honor. And we feel like we need to be there with Ben when his name is placed on there. We truly mean it when we say we'll never forget," said Keith Smith, Assistant Chief with the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

The department has raised about $20,000, and needs another $10,000 to reach its goal.

To help make that happen, a special memorial ride for the fallen is being held in Zirbel's honor on Saturday, Mar. 23. The Sheriff's Office said with him having played such an important role in the traffic unit, this is fitting.

"We've gotten about 60 riders already pre-registered. So we're anticipating anywhere from 300 to 350 based on the interactions we've had through social media, and the events that we've attended," Smith said.

"It is a big deal.  As a traffic unit, as a family, we’re going to go there in May and be there with Anna Zirbel and her family. Ben’s name will be placed on the memorial wall for the fallen officer. To be there is a big deal. It is very expensive and that’s why we’re doing these fundraisers," Deputy Claude Hurley said.

Since the deadly crash, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels has made it a priority to push for stronger regulations on distracted driving, something his agency supports.

While deputies patrol the streets, they are also focusing on fundraising. The first event was held last month when deputies hosted a "Shootin with the Sheriffs" event at the Saltwater Shooting Club in St. Augustine.

Saturday's "Memorial Ride for the Fallen" will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Adamec Harley-Davidson in Orange Park. The cost is $25 for riders and $10 for passengers.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.