A North Carolina police officer, who was a former Army solider and the son of a retired police chief, was struck and killed early Sunday morning when an alleged drunk driver plowed into him and his partner responding to a separate accident along the highway early Sunday.
Knightdale police Officer Ryan Hayworth, a three-month veteran of the force and former member of the U.S. Army, was killed in a vehicle collision on Interstate 540 around 2:39 a.m. Sunday. Hayworth, 23, was also the eldest son of retired Zebulon Police Chief Timothy Hayworth, WTVD reported.
Knightdale officers were investigating a single-vehicle accident on I-540 when their cruiser was struck from behind by another car in the eastbound lanes near mile marker 22, police said. Hayworth’s training officer, Cody Hagler, was transported to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, N.C., for injuries police said are serious but not life threatening. The motorist involved in the earlier accident and the driver of the suspect vehicle were also both seriously injured, Dustin Tripp, the assistant town manager said in an initial press release.
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“Alcohol is believed to have played a factor and charges are pending,” the release said.
“Ryan’s loss in an indescribable tragedy for our department and our community,” Knightdale police Chief Lawrence Capps said in a statement. “The pain of his death felt the most by his family, friends, and those who knew him best. As we began the process of healing, we ask that you join us in a season of prayer for all of those who have been forever touched by this heartbreaking event.”
Hayworth, a graduate of East Wake Academy, was sworn in to the Knightdale Police Department on July 21.
“As we continue to process this tragedy, other area Police Departments are providing us a helping hand,” the Knightdale Police Department said in an update on Facebook around noon Sunday. “Be advised that you may see units from surrounding jurisdictions assisting with patrols in Knightdale.”
The North Carolina Highway Patrol, which took over the investigation into the incident, later said Dedric Romero Privette, 40, of Knightdale, was driving a black 2011 Mercedes Benz S550 traveling east on I-540, when he approached the crash site and failed to reduce his speed, WNCN reported. The driver involved in the earlier crash was also identified as Michael Routh Melugin, Jr., 45, of Cary.
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WNCN reported that a police vehicle caught fire during the crash and firefighters were on scene later Sunday morning. The North Carolina Department of Transportation was asking drivers to take alternative routes during a temporary road closure as the scene was processed.