Rookie of the Year Killed in Crash Hours After Ceremony

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tyler Morning Telegraph
    Brandon Bennett (second from right) is pictured receiving his Smith County Sheriff's Department co-Rookie of the Year award Wednesday. Also pictured, l-r, are Chief Deputy Bobby Garman, co-Rookie of the Year Jennifer Burkhalter and Sheriff J.B. Smith.

    An off-duty wreck in Rusk County killed a Smith County sheriff's deputy hours after he was honored as the department's co-rookie of the year.

    Services were pending Friday for 25-year-old Deputy Brandon Bennett. Bennett died in the traffic accident Thursday morning near Joinerville.

    Bennett on Wednesday night had attended a banquet as part of his rookie honor. The other deputy sharing rookie of the year honors is Jennifer Burkhalter.

    Sheriff J.B. Smith said alcohol was not believed to be a factor in the accident.

    Department of Public Safety trooper Jean Dark said Bennett apparently fell asleep at the wheel around 5 a.m. Thursday. The vehicle hit a stone wall.

    “From the witnesses it sounds like he just went to sleep and lost control of his vehicle,” Dark told the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

    Bennett had spent the night, after the banquet, with a relative and was believed to be driving to his own home when the accident happened.