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Southampton County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Ray – on the job less than three months – died in the early hours of Saturday morning when the patrol car he was riding in crashed into a tree.

Ray, 22, was riding in a car driven by Deputy Jason Brinkley, the Tidewater News of Franklin said. The crash happened at about 5:20 a.m. on the General Thomas Highway a mile west of Shady Brook Trail.

The pair had been called to a fight in Newsoms when they apparently came upon a tree that had fallen during a storm. The Virginian-Pilot reported that the cruiser struck the tree. However, Tidewater News reported that Brinkley swerved to avoid the fallen tree, lost control, went off the road, and struck a tree on the right side of the road.

Brinkley was treated and released at Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin.

Ray graduated from Radford University with a degree in criminal justice and interned in the sheriff’s office in 2008, according to WAVY-TV.

“The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office is saddened by the loss of Deputy Sheriff Christopher Ray,” Detective Cpl. Richard Morris, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, wrote in a statement. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Southampton County Sheriff’s Office go out to Deputy Ray’s family and Deputy Brinkley and his family in this most difficult time.”

Road conditions were dry at the time of the accident, sheriff’s officials said.

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