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North Carolina Officer Dies in Fiery Crash

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --

Winston-Salem police said one of their officers was killed in a car crash at about 3:10 a.m. Saturday.

Police Chief Scott Cunningham said 28-year-old Officer Russell Willingham was driving north on Vargrave Street in Winston-Salem when he lost control of his patrol car.

He drove off the road and down an embankment. Willingham's patrol car crashed into trees, trapping him inside the vehicle.

Chief Cunningham said Willingham was able to radio for help, but by the time emergency crews arrived Willingham's car was engulfed in flames. He later died at the scene.

Flags lowered to the half staff at the Winston-Salem Law Enforcement Center

"There are simply not the sufficient words to say," said Cunningham. "After all of the years, I cannot find the words to tell the families that I am sorry."

Chief Cunningham said it is unknown exactly why Willingham lost control of his patrol car, but he said there will be a full investigation.

"We're analyzing the damage from the vehicle that we can gain because of the damage," said Cunningham. "We're analyzing radio tapes and traffic and other calls to see what the entire scenario was."

Willingham was driving to assist a fellow officer who was following a possible drunk driver.

A Life Of Service

Willingham was 28 years old. Cunningham said he joined the Winston-Salem Police Department in August of 2009.

Before working in Winston-Salem, Willingham served in the Greensboro Police Department for two years starting in April of 2007.

Cunningham said, "I just ask that the community remember the family in prayers."

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