Driver cited in crash that led to Clay County deputy's death

Deputy Ben Zirbel died after he was thrown from his motorcycle in 2018 collision

By Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - A driver has been cited in the traffic crash that resulted in the death of a Clay County deputy.

On Wednesday, the Florida Highway Patrol issued a citation to Stephen Schioppa for failure to yield in the August 2018 collision that injured Deputy Ben Zirbel, who later died of those injuries.

The final report on the crash investigation could be released this week. A Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the agency would have no comment until the report comes out.

Wednesday’s citation comes nearly a year after the on-duty crash, which happened about 11 a.m. Aug. 19, 2018, on Blanding Boulevard as Zirbel was riding his agency motorcycle.

Troopers said the deputy was heading south on Blanding when a northbound pickup truck towing a lawn trailer turned left onto Camp Francis Johnson Road and the vehicles collided.

Zirbel, 40, was thrown from his bike on impact. He was rushed to Orange Park Medical Center in critical condition but did not survive.

On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office will hold a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Zirbel, a 12-year agency veteran who left behind a wife and son.

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