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Inmate dies in hit-and-run soon after escaping from Hawaii jail

Correctional officers found the inmate on a highway about 100 yards from the Kauai Community Correctional Center less than 10 minutes after he escaped

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

LIHUE, Hawaii — A 33-year-old inmate, who escaped 1 a.m. Friday from the Kauai Community Correctional Center, died today from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run crash that occurred shortly after the escape.

Inmate Matthew J. Ornellas was found in a roadside ditch with serious injuries, and was taken by ambulance to the Wilcox Medical Center. His condition deteriorated and he died earlier today, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release this afternoon.

“The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) extends its heartfelt condolences to Ornellas’ family and loved ones,” DCR Director Tommy Johnson said in a written statement.

Ornellas scaled the KCCC outer perimeter fence with razor wire just after 1 a.m. Friday.

Correctional officers chased Ornellas on foot, but lost him in the dense brush. But a short time later, the officers heard a loud sound coming from the road.

They saw a dark-colored vehicle make a U-turn on Kuhio Highway, accelerating as it drove toward Kapaa.

Officers discovered Ornellas lying in a ditch along Kuhio Highway.

Ornellas, who was serving time for third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, a Class C felony, was a minimum custody inmate.

Police have opened cases on the escape and the fatal hit-and-run crash.

Kauai Police Department said it was the island’s fourth traffic fatality this year.

DCR is continuing its internal investigation into the escape.

KPD urges anyone who may have witnessed the incident to come forward.

Witnesses can call Officer Henshaw at 808-241-1616 or anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers Kauai at 808-246-8300 or by submitting a tip at or through Crime Stoppers Kauai P3 Tips Mobile App.


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