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Men ruled out as suspects in deputy-involved crash

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:19:31 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 26 2014 08:14:40 PM CDT
NEWPORT, CARTERET COUNTY -

[UPDATE] The Highway Patrol said Thursday night that the two men considered "persons of interest" in a crash that injured a deputy have been ruled out as suspects.

Troopers said the two men in surveillance photos that were released Thursday afternoon have been identified, and are ruled out as suspects in the crash that seriously injured Carteret County Deputy Matthew Howell.

The wreck happened on U.S. 70 in Newport Tuesday night.

The search for the suspect continues. Anyone with information is asked to call the Highway Patrol in Morehead City at 252 726-5766 or the Carteret County Sheriff's Office at 252-504-4800.

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The Highway Patrol has released surveillance images of two "persons of interest" in connection to a crash that seriously injured a Carteret County deputy.

Troopers said they need the public's help to identify the two men.

They are considered "persons of interest" in the crash that injured Carteret County Deputy Matthew Howell. It happened at about 11:28 p.m. Tuesday on U.S. 70 between Roberts Road and Nine Foot Road in Newport.

(CLICK HERE: More photos of the deputy-involved crash.)

Anyone with information on the two men is asked to call the Highway Patrol in Morehead City at 252 726-5766 or the Carteret County Sheriff's Office at 252-504-4800.

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.

(CLICK HERE: Watch video report of the crash.)

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 in Greenville.

"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, on Wednesday.

Family members said Howell underwent surgery Wednesday and was listed in fair condition.

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."

"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.