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Orange County Deputy Dies In Car Crash

Waterbury, Vt. — A 22-year-old Orange County Sheriff’s deputy died in an off-duty crash on Wednesday when his vehicle drifted into a guardrail on Interstate 89 in Waterbury.

Michael Zemanek, of Barre, Vt., became a part-time deputy for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in March 2011. After graduating from Norwich University in May 2012, he began working for the department full time. He was also working part-time as a Northfield, Vt., police officer.

“Michael was a hard-working, intelligent, community-oriented police officer with a bright future in law enforcement. This is not only a loss to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department but to all the communities that he served,” Sheriff Bill Bohnyak said in a statement.

Zemanek, originally from Voorheesville, N.Y., moved to Vermont to attend college, Bohnyak said. Zemanek graduated from the Vermont Police Academy in May 2013 and received top honors, Bohnyak said. Before working for the sheriff’s department, Zemanek worked for the Barre Police Department.

In a phone interview, Bohnyak described Zemanek as very personable. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department consists of 10 full-time deputies and 18 part-time officers.

“We’re all taking it pretty hard,” Bohnyak said. “We’ll miss him very deeply. He was a very good officer, hard working. He was admired out in the community. The shock has still not set in with us yet.”

Zemanek was traveling south on I-89 shortly before midnight when his 2002 Honda Accord drifted off the left side of the roadway, according to Vermont State Police. His car drove through the median, across both northbound lanes and hit the guardrail on the east side of the road before traveling back across the median, across both southbound lanes of travel and then stopping along the west side guardrail.

He was then transported to the Central Vermont Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington was scheduled to perform an autopsy on Thursday.

Northfield Police Chief James Dziobek said Zemanek was very energetic and happy.

“Very seldom did you see a frown on this guy’s face,” Dziobek said. “He was always happy-go-lucky. He had a magnetism to him that everybody that had contact with him liked him.”

He was also “wicked smart,” Dziobek said, but also gentle and low key. He could be a “freakin’ riot,” but he also knew when to be serious in his job, and he did his job well.

Although he graduated from Norwich University in 2012, Dziobek said, Zemanek was already beginning to work on his master’s degree.

Dziobek recalled having a conversation with Zemanek shortly after he first met him when Zemanek shared that he really wanted to get into the Secret Service. His mother has a career as a New York state trooper, Dziobek said.

Officials said they don’t know why Zemanek’s car began to drift off the road and the crash is still under investigation, but state police do not think speed was a factor.

Anyone with information regarding the crash is asked to call Trooper Crista Maurice at 802-229-9191.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.