Local News

Wake County Sheriff's Office Grieving Again As Another Deputy Dies In Crash

Posted October 2, 2003

— Prior to September, the last Wake County deputy to die in the line of duty was back in 1933. Now, car crashes have killed two deputies in the past month.

Deputy Phil Owens died Thursday morning when his patrol car ran off Angier Road outside Fuquay-Varina and hit a tree. He was not responding to a call at the time.

"It is just hard," said Robert Brooks, Owens' brother-in-law," and it is unbelievable that he is not here."

Owens' relatives said he was a role model and a dedicated family man. He left behind a wife of 10 months and a 10-year-old daughter.

"Phil was a nice decent gentleman who loved his family," Brooks said. "He loved my sister and my niece like they were the most valuable thing on this earth."

According to the Wake County Sheriff's Office, the accident happened between 12:45 a.m. and 1:15 a.m. Thursday. Speed reportedly was a factor.

Owens was traveling south at the 900 block of Angier Road when he veered off the road to the right and then came across toward the oncoming traffic lane and struck a tree.

A passerby called 9-1-1. Owens was pronounced dead when emergency personnel arrived at the scene.

"It appears speed was involved," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said. "Records don't show him answering any dispatch calls."

Owens was the third deputy since 1933 to lose his life in the line of duty, the second Wake County deputy to die in a wreck in a month. The accident occurred on a road just north of the Harnett County line.

On Sept. 5, Wake County Deputy William Franklin James died after he lost control of his cruiser on a road near Garner while responding to a call.

Last week, Harnett County Deputy John Strickland was killed in a wreck while responding to a call.

"It is devastating to us," Harrison said of his two deputies' accidents. "The first one was bad enough. But having two within a month is just unbelievable. It has been a nightmare."

Investigators said they do not know what caused Owens' wreck or if fatigue was a factor. They said Owens was wearing a seat belt.

Harrison said there is no connection between Owens' and James' accidents or why they happened so close together.

"Our guys are professionals," Harrison said. "They are trained, and I will put them up against anybody. I don't know how to explain it. It was just something that happened. God has a way of doing things, and that's the only thing I can say about it."

Owens had been with the Wake County Sheriff's Office for eight years.

Harrison said the grief is almost too much for his staff to bear.

"We want to keep the family in our thoughts and prayers," he said. "He had just been married 10 months. He had a 10-year-old daughter. It is tough on all of us."


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