Tragic: Officer Trapped In Burning Cruiser Dies
The Daily Mail via YellowBrix
August 01, 2011
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – A North Carolina police officer frantically called for help as he lay trapped in his burning patrol car after losing control as he drove to help a fellow officer who was following a possible drunken driver, it has been revealed.
Russell Willingham, 28, radioed for assistance after he crashed into a tree in Winston-Salem early yesterday morning and told operators that he was stuck inside his car.
Shortly afterwards, he made a final call to tell dispatchers that his patrol car had caught on fire. By the time rescuers arrived at the scene, the car was engulfed in flames.
Police said that Mr Willingham died at the scene. His car went off the road and down an embankment at around 3:15am.
‘Officer Willingham was able to call and advise that he was pinned in the vehicle,’ police chief Scott Cunningham said.
’Police and other emergency services had some difficulty in locating Officer Willingham at first due to him being completely off the road and not visible from the roadway, he said.
‘After all the years, I still cannot find the words to tell the family that I am so sorry.’
Mr Cunningham said that Mr Willingham was heading to assist a fellow officer after a suspected drunk driver nearly hit another vehicle.
Police are investigating how the accident happened. It is not known why Mr Willingham lost control of the car.
Mr Willingham, who is originally from Massachusetts and leaves behind a wife, joined the police department in August 2009.
Before that, he worked in the Greensboro police department for two years. Flags have been lowered to half-staff at the police station.
‘I do ask that the community remember him, especially his family, and the rest of the Winston-Salem Police Department in their prayers during this very trying time,’ Mr Cunningham said.