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A police officer who recently joined his hometown force in Belleville was killed yesterday morning in a two-car crash that also seriously injured his partner in their patrol car.
Kenneth Santucci, 33, was killed in the accident in Nutley, near the Belleville border, as he and Melissa Corrado were responding to a police call. Corrado, 28, of Hopatcong suffered serious head injuries and broken ribs, Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said.
Santucci, a father of two boys whose wife is seven months pregnant, was the first Belleville officer killed in the line of duty since 1951, said Police Chief Joe Rotonda.
Santucci was also the third officer in New Jersey to die in a traffic accident in less than a month.
"You never expect it to hit home," said fellow Belleville officer Anthony Weiners, president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association.
Santucci, a former Newark police officer who joined the Belleville department in January, and Corrado, who joined the department in March, were headed south on Union Avenue, responding to a report of a suspicious person around 7:30 a.m., when their cruiser collided with a car at the intersection of Union and Hancox avenues, Dow said.
Santucci, who was driving, lost control of the cruiser and crashed into a utility pole between two homes, police said. Both officers were ejected from their car, Dow said.
It has not been determined whether the officers were wearing seat belts, she said.
Santucci was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, where he was pronounced dead. Corrado was taken to University Hospital in Newark. Her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, Dow said.
No charges have been filed against the driver of the other vehicle, whom Dow identified as a 51-year-old woman from Bloomfield. The woman was taken to Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, treated and released, Dow said.
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