MILLVILLE — New Jersey State Police said a trooper has died in the line of duty after being struck head-on while driving on Route 55 in South Jersey.
Colonel Rick Fuentes said Trooper Frankie Williams, 31, of the Port Norris Station died at Cooper University Hospital in Camden following the incident on Monday night along the highway in Millville near exit 24 for Route 49. Williams was responding to a call for service.
A Toyota Corolla traveling southbound crossed the grass median and went onto the northbound lanes hitting Williams’ marked cruiser head-on. The driver of the Toyota was pronounced dead at the scene, according to State Police, who did not disclose the driver’s identity. An earlier tweet identified the driver as a woman, but police described the driver as a man in an updated announcement.
The exact cause of death for both still remains under investigation. Route 55 reopened around 3:45 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Williams was a member of the 156th State Police Class, which graduated in January, and was a resident of Atlantic County.
Trooper Williams was highly respected by his peers, establishing himself very early in his career as an outstanding trooper able to think quickly on his feet and make sound decisions,” State Police wrote on their Facebook page.
North Wildwood flew its flags to half-staff on Tuesday in Williams’ honor. “I am deeply saddened over the death of NJ State Trooper Frankie Williams, and I want to make sure that he is honored properly, as we in North Wildwood stand here today in support and solidarity with the New Jersey State Police, and Trooper Williams’ family and friend,” Mayor Patrick Rosenello said in a statement.
Gov. Christie offered condolences and prayers for Williams’ family in a tweet on Tuesday morning. Bridgeton Police offered condolences on their Facebook page while NJ State PBA President Patrick Colligan tweeted “we have lost a hero.”
Williams was credited last August for getting a toy poodle out of the back of a hot Mercedes-Benz parked at a Pilesgrove Township store by breaking the window. He brought the dog, which a vet said was suffering from heat stroke to a shaded area and poured water over its body and gave the dog some water to drink.
The dog’s owner, a 43-year-old State College, Penn woman, was charged with animal abuse.
Williams is the second State Police officer to die in the line of duty in 2016. Trooper Sean Cullen died after being hit responding to a vehicle fire on Route 295 in Deptford on March 8.
Trooper Eli McCarson lost control of his cruiser in a heavy rain and died last December after just 10 months of service en route to a domestic violence call in Quinton Township.