New Jersey State Police say a 24-year-old state trooper is dead after the cruiser he was driving early Saturday morning struck a deer, ran off the side of the road and hit a tree along Interstate 195.

 

New Jersey State Police Trooper Anthony Raspa (NJSP)

State Police spokesman Capt. Stephen Jones says Trooper Anthony Raspa died at CentraState Hospital in Freehold where he died.

A second trooper who was in the Ford Crown Victoria, Trooper Gene Hong, 29, was hospitalized with lacerations and a neck injury.

Raspa was a Middlesex County resident who graduated from the 152nd State Police Academy class in 2013.

In a statement, Raspa's family said, "Anthony was passionate about law enforcement and took great pride in being a NJ State Trooper. He will forever be in our minds and in our hearts."

The crash happened at 12:48 a.m. near exit #8 (Route 539)  in Upper Freehold just east of the New Jersey Turnpike. Both troopers were assigned to Hamilton Station and on duty. No other vehicles were involved in the crash. The accident closed down the eastbound side for most of the night for investigation and cleanup of the incident. The investigation is on-going.

State Police say this is the first accident in the line of duty for New Jersey State Police since James Hoopes died in 2012.  The last traffic related death was Trooper Marc Castellano, who was struck by a car while outside of his vehicle on Interstate 195 in Wall Township in June of 2010.

STATEMENT FROM THE RASPA FAMILY

"Today our family lost an incredible son, brother, grandson, cousin, friend and person. Anthony was a phenomenal young man with a heart of gold and a passion for life. While he is no longer physically with us, we are so grateful for the 24 years of love and loyalty we shared with him. Anthony was passionate about law enforcement and took great pride in being a NJ State Trooper. He will forever be in our minds and in our hearts. The family is so appreciative of all of the love and support. We ask that you respect our privacy at this time as we continue to grieve.

The Associated Press contributed to this report