KNIGHTDALE, N.C. (WNCN) — A procession of police officers and firefighters from across the Triangle escorted the body of Officer Ryan Hayworth back home to Knightdale Monday.
Hayworth, 23, was killed early Sunday just three months after joining the Knightdale Police Department.
Hayworth was following in the footsteps of his father, Tim Hayworth, a former police chief in Zebulon.
“His father has such a long tenure in the force and his brother works for the fire department. So it was only natural that Ryan was also gonna keep going in that direction,” said Matthew Hannon, a childhood friend who dropped off flowers at the memorial outside the Knightdale Police Department on Monday.
Hayworth and his training officer Cody Hagler were responding to a crash in I-540 early Sunday near Buffaloe Road when a suspected drunk driver crashed into one of their parked police SUVs.
The impact was so severe, the police SUV caught fire. Hayworth didn’t survive.
Hagler was seriously injured and is at WakeMed in stable condition.
“He wanted to be a police officer like his dad,” said John Marshall Carroll, who knows the family through their membership at Faith Baptist Church. “I knew his dad real well. They’re good, God-fearing people. They care about the community and it’s sad something this tragic happened the way it did.”
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said 40-year-old Dedric Privette was behind the wheel of a Mercedes at the time and is responsible for the crash that caused Hayworth’s death.
Privette is in the hospital in critical condition and has not yet been charged in the crash.
The Knightdale Police Department is planning a vigil for Hayworth and is expected to announce details sometime on Tuesday.