Gio Benitez had a busy week. He headed to Pasadena to cover Perseverance Rover’s descent and touchdown on Mars. Then, the ABC reporter and transportation correspondent covered the Hawaii-bound United Flight 328’s in-air emergency.
“It’s funny because I landed Saturday morning,” he says. “I had done a story on ‘GMA’ (‘Good Morning America’) about Mars. I was looking forward to the weekend. I had to turn around to go out.
“It can get kind of busy, but, at the end of the day, nobody was hurt on this plane. That is the best kind of story.”
Benitez is even busier now. He recently launched his A&E channel series “I Survived a Crime.”
The show takes viewers on a journey into the experience of being a victim of a sudden crime, from the moment those attacked first perceive the danger through the potential long-lasting effects. Using surveillance and cellphone footage captured during the crime, the series follows individuals going about their daily lives who were confronted with a dangerous situation and forced to make a quick decision on how to protect themselves or their families.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I have a friend who loves horror movies. Now he’s hooked on this particular show. Survival stories are compelling.
“When I heard about this show, I said, ‘OK, my favorite kinds of stories I like to tell are survival stories. We learn so much from people.’
“We could all relate because all of us have different circumstances we have to go through. In cases of survival, we hear what got them through that particular moment and what they were thinking, and how they dealt with that kind of drama and how they deal.”
Benitez says it was interesting to hear that the victims didn’t know how they expected to react. Most fought back and were able to escape.
“I certainly felt like I was talking to survivors in watching the clips,” he says. “I have no idea how I would even react. When faced with a situation, they needed to act and did whatever they could think of doing to escape.
“Law enforcement didn’t agree with some of their tactics. That’s why we show you why they did it and what law enforcement says you should do. I hope it’s a learning tool and viewers are able to put that in their mental toolbox.”
As transportation correspondent for ABC News, based in New York and Washington, D.C., Benitez regularly covers aviation, space, railroads and the auto industry for all ABC News programs and platforms.
Benitez is an award-winning reporter and has covered a wide range of stories for the network, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, El Chapo’s underground escape from a Mexican prison, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Before joining ABC News in 2013, he was a reporter for WFOR-TV in Miami, where he covered the 2012 presidential election and the Trayvon Martin case.
In January 2010, Benitez traveled to Haiti to cover relief efforts following the devastating earthquake. His return flight to Miami was turned into a rescue mission, as he traveled with injured Haitian evacuees to the island of Curaçao. In June 2009, he was the first reporter to shoot a TV story entirely with an iPhone.
Before becoming a reporter, the Miami-born Benitez was an investigative producer at WFOR-TV and worked on stories involving Medicare fraud, public safety and government corruption. He started at the station as an Emma L. Bowen Foundation work-study scholar.
Eighteen episodes of “I Survived a Crime” have been filmed. Benitez says “I Survived a Crime” is the perfect TV show for the COVID-19 pandemic, as it shows the strength of the human spirit and its resilience.
“We have that human instinct to survive,” he adds. “When I was a kid — probably 13 — I lived in Miami and saw hurricanes all over the place. During the hurricanes, I would watch TV and see the power of television and keeping people safe and helping people. Through this medium of television, I’m able to help people. I became obsessed.
“A mentor of mine said knowledge is power. I couldn’t agree more.”
“I Survived a Crime”
Wednesday nights on A&E