What to Know
- A police officer died in a violent crash involving a car and truck cab in NJ early Monday; one other person in the car was badly hurt
- Authorities are looking into whether alcohol may have been a factor; test results are pending
- Footage from the scene showed the officer's vehicle completely shredded in the front
The New Jersey police officer who died in a violent crash with a stopped tractor-trailer cab Monday was flung, along with the other person in the vehicle, about 300 feet away from the car, a law enforcement source said Tuesday.
The source said investigators also believe officer Giovanni Esposito's vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when it smashed into the cab of a tractor-trailer that was parked at a stoplight on Route 1 in Linden around 2:15 a.m.
It's not clear who was driving because Esposito's body and the other person in his car, who survived, were found so far away from the vehicle, the source said. Neither was thought to have been wearing a seat belt. The second person in the officer's car, who has not been identified, was hospitalized in serious condition.
Authorities have been looking into whether alcohol may have been involved; test results are pending.
Esposito, who was hired less than a year ago by the Hillside Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. It wasn't clear if he was on duty at the time.
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.