Inmate seriously injured in a hit-and-run soon after his escape from a Hawaii jail

Mar 22, 2024, 5:50 PM | Updated: 8:08 pm

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — An inmate’s escape from a Hawaii jail was short-lived when a vehicle hit him as he was running away on a highway early Friday, authorities said.

Matthew J. Ornellas Jr. was seriously injured in a hit-and-run soon after he escaped from Kauai Community Correctional Center just after 1 a.m., the Hawaii Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

Ornellas scaled a fence with razor wire, said Rosemarie Bernardo, a spokesperson for the department.

Correctional officers found Ornellas on Kuhio Highway, about 100 yards (91 meters) from the jail. An ambulance transported him to a hospital, where he remained in serious condition Friday — and in custody.

He is serving time for promoting a dangerous drug, according to the department. John Calma, a public defender, said he represented Ornellas for a probation violation. He declined to comment on the alleged escape.

The jail has various housing units for medium-security, minimum-security and community custody level offenders, Bernardo said, adding Ornellas is a minimum-custody inmate.

Kauai police said they are searching for the driver of the vehicle, who fled before first responders arrived. The vehicle hit Orenellas as he was running north in the southbound lane of Kuhio Highway, police said.

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Inmate seriously injured in a hit-and-run soon after his escape from a Hawaii jail