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DWI Crash Victim Honors Upper Saddle River Officers With MADD Award

Upper Saddle River resident and MADD Board Member Steven Benvenisti. Photo Credit: Steven Benvenisti
Steven Benvenisti presents Mothers Against Drunk Drivings "Law Enforcement Recognition Award" at the Oct. 1 council meeting. Photo Credit: Steven Benvenisti
Steven Benvenisti after being struck by a drunk driver his senior year in college. Photo Credit: Steven Benvenisti

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Upper Saddle River resident Steven Benvenisti was a senior in college when a repeat drunk driver nearly killed him on Spring Break in Florida.

His parents were asked to agree to organ donation but instead flew in from Montvale, took pictures of their 21-year-old son on life support and prayed for his survival.

Benvenisti survived his close encounter with death, became a Mothers Against Drunk Driving board member -- and earlier this month presented a trio of Upper Saddle River police officers with the organization’s most prestigious award.

“I’m certain without question that every one of those officers have saved lives with their heroic work (arresting drunk driver),” said Benvenisti. “When it involves drunk driving it’s not an accident. It’s a crash.”

Upper Saddle River Officers Colin Gurney and Michael Spina and Sgt. Joseph Farrow are among 1% of police officers in New Jersey who this year received MADD’s “Law Enforcement Recognition Award.”

Although one or two officers from every municipality in New Jersey were honored in June, Benvinisti wanted to personally recognize his borough’s finest.

“I wanted the residents to understand how fortunate we are to have our officers behind the scenes," he said. "The officers are protecting the public in ways they may not realize."

A drunk driver last year came within inches of striking an Upper Saddle River police cruiser before swiping the side mirror and sparing the officer his life, Chief Patrick Rotella told Daily Voice.

“Whether you’re a police officer or a civilian, everyone’s lives are endangered by people who choose to drink and operate a motor vehicle,” Rotella said.

“I was honored to have three of my officers receive this award,” he added. “It was well-deserved and an example of the hard work these and other police officers do each day to make our streets safer.”

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