HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. — Investigators in Harnett County say the death of an off-duty Benson police officer was most likely an accident.
Investigators said Sgt. Ronnie McLamb's personal car was found submerged in a creek at the Harnett/Johnston line on Highway 301 South, about 1 mile from the Benson town limits on Monday.
Autopsy results suggest McLamb drowned in his vehicle. The Harnett County Sheriff's Office said skid marks and the condition of the car do not indicate foul play.
According to the Benson Police Department, McLamb, 25, of Zebulon, was a member of the department for about four years and had been promoted to his present rank two weeks ago.
McLamb was last seen leaving a friend's house late Saturday night and failed to show up for work Monday evening.
When Benson officers heard earlier in the day that McLamb had not returned home, they retraced his route. The car was located around 5 p.m.
Investigators do not know how long the car was submerged in the creek, but they said it had been there long enough to eliminate any hope of a rescue at the time it was located.
"The individual who was taken from the car was last seen in the Dunn area Saturday night at 11:30 and he hasn't been seen since," Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said.
Authorities said McLamb was traveling northbound on Highway 301. Just before he reached the town of Benson, the car ended up in the creek near Hodge's Chapel Road.
Investigators said McLamb's family members grew so concerned, they drove up and down Highway 301 searching for his car. McLamb's wife is the one who spotted a small portion of the car just above the water's surface.
After divers extracted McLamb's body, it took a crane two hours to lift the car from the creek.
"We're treating it as a death investigation. It appears this was an accident, but we are going to do everything we can to conclude that," Rollins said.
In a press release, the Benson Police Department said McLamb "was well liked by his fellow officers and respected and admired for his dedication to the department, the public, and the community he served. He will be sorely missed and always remembered."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
A memorial fund is being set up for McLamb's family through the State Employees Credit Union and donations can be made at any local branch.