Flags outside the Greene County courthouse are flying at half staff in honor of a deputy who died in a car accident Monday night.
The Highway Patrol identified the victim as Deputy David Jennings Dawson III. He was 21 years old.
A memorial service for the deputy is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the North Lenoir High School Auditorium in LaGrange. Dawson was a 2008 graduate at the school.
Troopers say the crash happened at Highway 903 at Crowfoot Road, about three miles south of Snow Hill. Only one vehicle was involved in the wreck. Deputy Dawson was heading north on Highway 903 when he lost control, according to the Highway Patrol. Sgt. J.E. Brewer says Dawson veered left, then to the right, crossing back over Highway 903. He ran off the road and struck a tree.
Dawson, who troopers say was wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle, which was split in half by the crash.
Officials said the deputy was responding to a call to assist another officer. The Highway Patrol says the patrol car did have its lights on, according to a witness. Trooper Robert Caraway says the cruiser was going 75 in a 55 mile per hour zone. The trooper says the cruiser was equipped with a data recovery box that recorded vital information seconds before the crash.
Some 20 to 30 feet of skid marks are on the highway in front of the tree. A neighbor says she heard the squeal of brakes, a crash and then the patrol car burst into flames. "He was really trying to stop that car, but he could not stop because tires were squealing everywhere," said Irene Turnage. "The next thing I know, I heard an explosion - it sounded like a bomb exploding. I took off out the door, and I saw everything was gushed up in flames."
Trooper Caraway says their investigation is pretty much complete, and they will likely never know what caused the deputy to veer off the road in the first place.
WITN has set up an online guestbook for people to leave their condolences to Deputy Dawson's family. You can click here to access that page.
The Greene County manager told WITN Dawson had been with the sheriff's office since June 1. He graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training at Lenoir Community College this past spring and his parents live outside of La Grange.
It was just over a year ago that Greene County lost a sheriff's deputy. Deputy Jon-Michael Willis was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 28, 2010. Family and friends held a candlelight vigil last Thursday to mark the year anniversary of Willis' death.