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Deputy’s car “drifted left of center” in fatal crash


     A Fair Bluff man died after a Columbus County Sheriff’s patrol car “drifted left of center into the path” of an oncoming pickup truck early Friday, Lt. Jeff Gordon of the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.
    Robert Brownlee, 30, of Fair Bluff, died following the 7 a.m. crash on Princess Ann Road, just west of NC 242, Gordon said.
    Brownlee was pronounced dead on board an ambulance on the way to Columbus Regional Healthcare in Whiteville, Columbus County Assistant Coroner William Hannah said.
    Deputy Ryan Bailey Gibson, 24, was taken by ambulance to Columbus Regional, where he was treated for his injuries and released, sheriff’s spokeswoman Michelle Tatum said.
    Gibson was traveling west on Princess Ann Road when his 2014 Dodge Charger marked patrol vehicle crossed the center line, into the path of Brownlee’s 1990 GMC pick-up truck, Gordon said.
    Brownlee “attempted to veer onto the right shoulder of the roadway but was sideswiped by the deputy’s vehicle,” Gordon said in a news release. “Brownlee’s vehicle then struck a ditch where it came to a final rest.”
    Neither speed nor alcohol were factors in the crash, Gordon said. Troopers will consult with the district attorney’s office regarding possible charges.
    Disciplinary actions by the sheriff’s office “will not be discussed because disciplinary actions are considered a personal matter,” Tatum said.

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