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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The clean-up from Hurricane Irene in Pender County was slowed yesterday after a couple allegedly stole a Four County EMC truck and started a chase that ended two counties away.

Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Will Thurston says it started when the truck was stolen in Maple Hill in Pender County. Cindy Horrell, Four County’s Vice President for Human Resources, says a worker had climbed a pole to repair a security light damaged in the storm, when he looked down to see the 2006 Chevy Colorado pick-up being stolen. He called it in, and the company alerted law enforcement.

Horrell says a short time later, an other Four County worker in Duplin County spotted the truck and called it in. A trooper tried to pull it over in Beaulaville in Duplin County, but the driver would not stop. The chase continued north on Highway 241 into Lenoir County. Thurston says the female passenger, later identified as Amber Hansen, jumped out of the truck as it was moving. Then Thurston says the driver, Merritt Lamont Lee, jumped out and ran.

Thurston says the truck hit an apartment complex as Lee ran into a nearby home, sending the folks inside running scared. Thurston says eventually the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Special Response Team responded and fired tear gas into the house. Lee then surrendered.

Lee is charged with a host of crimes in all three counties, including stealing the truck, fleeing to evade, resisting arrest, aggressive driving, hit and run, driving while license revoked and cocaine possession. He’s in the Duplin County Jail under $40,000.

Thurston says Lenoir County took custody of Hansen and took her to the hospital in Kinston to be treated for her injuries. No word on her condition.

Four County EMC says the truck suffered only minor body damage. The company recovered all the equipment that was in it.

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