NEWPORT, CARTERET COUNTY - The Highway Patrol is asking for the public's help to find a driver who caused a Carteret County deputy's patrol car to flip, seriously injuring him.
Troopers said Deputy Matthew Howell was hurt in the wreck on U.S. 70 between Roberts Road and Nine Foot Road in Newport. The crash happened at about 11:28 p.m. Tuesday.
"He has broken his ankles and his knee and his shin bone. He has a broken shoulder with some possible damage to some ribs," said the deputy's uncle, Glenn Howell.
Family members said Matthew Howell underwent surgery Wednesday at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, where he was listed in fair condition.
Troopers said Deputy Howell was traveling west on U.S. 70 with his blue lights and siren activated and was responding to an accident.
Howell was attempting to pass two pickup trucks, said Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck. The lead truck pulled over to the side of the road.
But the second truck --a burgundy-colored Chevrolet pickup-- swerved into Deputy Howell's path, causing him to swerve into the median, according to troopers. Deputy Howell's vehicle then crossed back over to the westbound lanes of U.S. 70, hit a ditch bank, and overturned.
Deputy Howell was pinned upside down in the car, but was responsive, investigators said. Newport Fire Chief George Bergamini said it took crews nearly two hours to extricate Howell from his patrol car. He was then airlifted to Vidant Medical Center.
Investigators said they are searching for the driver of the truck that caused the wreck. The pickup is described as a burgundy Chevrolet with either silver or tan running boards.
The Highway Patrol said the truck has (or had) a white oval OBX sticker and bullet hole stickers on the tailgate. Troopers believe the truck has a North Carolina registration plate.
The Highway Patrol is taking the lead in investigating the crash. They are calling it a hit-and-run.
"Why they wouldn't have the courtesy to stop and try to help him, we don't understand that," said Deputy Howell's father, Ted Howell. "I hope that somebody out there knows who it is and they turn him in."
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact Trooper S. J. Powell at 252-726-5766 or the Carteret County Sherriff's Office at 252-504-4800.
"Although Deputy Howell's injuries are severe, we are very grateful he was not injured worse than he was," said Sheriff Buck in a statement. "We appreciate all of the support shown to Deputy Howell, his family and our Office during this period. We are asking the public for their assistance in locating the truck and driver that caused this accident [Tuesday] night."
Howell has been a Carteret County deputy for a year, his family said. He has been married for three years and his wife is pregnant with their first child.