'Hearts heavy' after deputy killed in crash

Hearts heavy after deputy killed in crash

41-year-old Calcasieu Deputy Randall Lee Benoit of Sulphur died Wednesday, January 18th after being severely injured in a head on collision in Carlyss. State police said it happened when a Ford Focus driven by 28-year-old Charles Harrell crossed the center line for unknown reasons.

Benoit was hit head on by the car driven by Harrell of Carlyss. Harrell was southbound on Louisiana Highway 1256 near Red Rose Drive.

It's not known why Harrell's car crossed the center line but neither he nor Benoit were wearing seatbelts. Two other cars were involved but those drivers suffered minor injuries.

Law enforcement throughout the area mourned the death of Benoit who was a long time law officer and well loved by many.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso said it's hard to lose a member of their law enforcement family.

"Randy was, if you were ever around him you would be laughing. He was great, funny, loved to pick, have a good time type of person. That was the personality he had. Randy started here back in the nineties. He worked in corrections like most of us did, patrol, warrants division, safe schools. It just breaks our heart. There's not much more you can say about it other than it's sad and it's tragic and we'll move on and do our job and continue on with the day but it makes it very difficult," Mancuso said.

Troop D State Police Commander, Captain Chris Guillory who knew Deputy Benoit well said the tragedy is a grim reminder of the importance of wearing a safety belt.

"Most times it does make a difference in the severity of the injuries in a crash. I've known Deputy Benoit for over twenty years. He was a really outstanding guy. He was a good member of the community and as bad as I feel about that hopefully someone can take something from this, what happened to Deputy Benoit and learn from it," Guillory said.

As is custom, law enforcement officers stay with their fallen brother until he is brought to his final resting place. Sirens wailed this morning, as Benoit's body was escorted from the hospital in a procession of law enforcement vehicles from the sheriff's department and other agencies. Benoit's body has now been moved to Johnson Funeral Home.

The sheriff said Benoit worked in the civil division and spent his days serving papers. He was on duty when the crash occurred.

At last word services are still pending.

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This is the official Press Release from the Louisiana State Police regarding the accident in Carlyss:

This morning, at approximately 7:54 a.m., troopers assigned to Louisiana State Police Troop D responded to four-vehicle crash on Louisiana Highway 1256 at its intersection with Red Rose Drive about 1 mile south of Sulphur that claimed the life of a Sulphur man.

The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2003 Ford Focus driven by 28-year-old Charles W. Harrell of Carlyss was traveling south on LA 1256 when for unknown reasons, he crossed the center line.  The Focus then collided head-on with a northbound 2007 Ford Taurus, which is owned by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office, and was driven by 41-year Deputy Randall Lee Benoit of Sulphur.

After the initial impact, a northbound 2004 Dodge Stratus driven by 44-year-old Michelle M. LeBlanc of Sulphur rear-ended the Ford Taurus.  The Stratus then traveled into the southbound lane and struck a 2003 Dodge pick-up driven by 42-year-old Cody Goodner of Sulphur.  

Benoit, who was not wearing a seat belt, was transported to an area hospital with critical injuries where he later died.  Benoit was on-duty at the time of the crash.

Harrell, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered serious injuries and is in critical condition at an area hospital.  He will be cited for driving left of center and no seat belt.

LeBlanc and Goodner were both wearing a seat belt.  Each had only minor injuries.

Routine toxicology samples were obtained from the drivers and will be submitted to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis.  The crash remains under investigation and additional charges are possible.

In 2010, 59 percent of vehicle occupants who died in car crashes were not wearing a seat belt.  Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing motorists can do to protect themselves in a crash.  Buckle up Louisiana.  Every trip.  Every time.

This is the sixth fatal crash investigated by Troop D in 2012.

A veteran Calcasieu Parish sheriff's deputy was killed early Wednesday in a head-on collision on La. 27 at Red Rose Drive in Carlyss.

Randall L. Benoit, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 8 a.m. crash.  Benoit, with 18 years on the force,  was on duty at the time of the accident.

"Our hearts are heavy this morning with the passing of Randy," said Sheriff Tony Mancuso.  "He was a great asset to our department and will be sorely missed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this most difficult time."

Benoit worked at the sheriff's office in various capacities, including corrections, patrol, detectives, warrants  and safe school divisions. At the time of his death he was working in the Civil Division.

Louisiana state police are heading the accident probe.