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A police officer died in a violent crash involving a car and tractor-trailer in NJ early Monday; one other person in the car was badly hurt
Authorities are looking into whether alcohol may have been a factor
Footage from the scene showed the officer's vehicle completely shredded in the front
A New Jersey police officer has died in a violent overnight crash involving a tractor-trailer, and authorities are looking into whether alcohol may have been a factor, a source familiar with the investigation tells News 4.
Officer Giovanni Esposito, who was hired less than a year ago by the Hillside Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 2:15 a.m. crash Monday on Route 1 near Pleasant Avenue in Linden, the department confirmed. It wasn't clear if Esposito was on duty or the driver; another person was in the vehicle and that person was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
A police official described the crash: "As it approaches the intersection with Pleasant Street, it collided with a tractor trailer cab -- no trailer attached, it collided with the cab -- and proceeded. It flipped over, and two occupants were ejected."
Witness Michael Walker said, "I knew there was a bad accident, but once I got around, I saw a lot of debris from the tractor trailer, a car that was hit."
The driver of the truck was not hurt. Footage from the scene showed the officer's vehicle completely shredded in the front, its windshield popped inward. At least one right front wheel appeared to be missing.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor's office said the investigation was still in the early information-gathering stages.
Hillside Police released a statement saying in part, "Officer Esposito loved his job and was a warm and friendly person who was well-liked by all who knew him."
"He prided himself on serving the community of Hillside with diligence and compassion," the statement continued. "His death is a profound loss to our department and we will miss him terribly. We wish his family solace and comfort during this extremely difficult time."
Neighbors in the close-knit neighborhood where he grew up were devastated to hear that such a good person who was just getting his career started died the way he did.
"Whenever I would come into my house or leave my house and I would see him, he would say hi to me, 'How are you?,'" said Celine Dasilva. "So he was a friendly face. That's heartbreaking. I can't believe it."
Route 1 was shut down in both directions in the vicinity as authorities investigated.