FHP trooper hit by car in crash involving suspected drunken driver

Authorities say driver failed sobriety test after crash

HIALEAH, Fla. – A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was seriously injured early Sunday in a crash involving a drunken driver, authorities said.

Trooper Daniel Cruz was working the scene of an earlier crash about 1 a.m. on Okeechobee Road near the Palmetto Expressway when he was hit, FHP Trooper Joe Sanchez said.

According to the arrest report, John Bencosme, 26, of Miami, was driving a blue Hyundai Velastar south on Okeechobee Road when he slammed into one of the cars from the earlier crash. The impact sent a Hyundai Elantra spinning into Cruz, throwing him several feet into the air, the report said.

After the crash, troopers said they conducted field sobriety tests after smelling alcohol on Bencosme's breath. Troopers said Bencosme's blood alcohol level was .201 -- more than double the legal limit.

Bencosme faces multiple charges, including driving under the influence and causing serious bodily injury.

"It's the greatest fear that we face," Sanchez said. "Our roads have gotten to the point where troopers are more scared to be hit by a car than to be shot out there while they are performing their duties." 

John Bencosme
Trooper Daniel Cruz

Sanchez said Cruz was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he was listed in critical but stable condition.

Troopers said Cruz seriously injured ligaments in his legs and he broke a small bone in his back.

"He is alert. He is going to be out for about six months," Sanchez said. "He did sustain some, you know, injuries that are critical. ... But thank God he is alive." 

The Palmetto Expressway southbound exit ramp to Okeechobee Road was shut down for several hours as authorities investigated the scene. 

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.