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State Trooper Dies from Injuries Suffered in NJ Crash

State Trooper Dies from Injuries Suffered in NJ Crash

Police on the scene of a motor vehicle crash that killed a New Jersey State Police trooper on Rt. 195 at exit 31.

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

June 07, 2010

HOWELL TOWNSHIP — A New Jersey state trooper described as “the embodiment of the finest ideals” of the force, died today after being struck by a car in Monmouth County as he searched for the occupants of an abandoned car.

Marc K. Castellano, 29, who has been with the force since 2004, was struck at 10 a.m. in a westbound lane of Interstate 195, near Exit 31 in Howell. The married father of two was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where he died several hours later.

State Police Capt. Gerald Lewis said the driver of the abandoned car, Diana Hoffman, 30, of Blackwood, Camden County, was found hiding in a nearby wooded area shortly after Castellano was struck and was taken into custody. Charges against her are pending.

State Police initially launched a massive hours-long search for a second passenger of the vehicle after Hoffman said a man was in the car with her. Tonight, however, authorities were investigating the validity of Hoffman’s claim and suspended the search for that man.

Hoffman was not the driver of the car that struck Castellano. Lewis offered few details about the vehicle or its driver, other than to say the driver remained at the scene after the accident and has not been charged. The driver of the car that struck Castellano was not believed to have any connection to the abandoned vehicle, Lewis said.

Castellano, who lived in Howell, was a 1998 graduate of Jackson Memorial High School. A member of the Troop C Tactical Patrol Unit, he graduated as a member of the 136th New Jersey State Police Academy Training Class in September 2004. He is the first New Jersey State Trooper to be killed in the line duty since 2004 when Trooper Bertram Zimmerman was struck by a car.

“The loss of Trooper Castellano is a difficult blow to absorb,” State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said. "The New Jersey State Police prides itself on being a family and the loss of our brother will be felt throughout the entire Division of State Police.

“Trooper Castellano was the embodiment of the finest ideals of the New Jersey State Police,” Fuentes said.

Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno visited the trooper’s family at the hospital. During an appearance in Mahwah earlier today, Christie urged people to pray for Castellano.

The search for the purported second passenger was carried out by dozens of troopers, local police and other law enforcement officials and K-9 units.

The command post for the search forced the closure of Route 547 where it crosses with Route 195, creating massive traffic delays for much of the day. Police and rescue workers used the parking area of a car dealership off Route 195 as a base-camp to set up tents and cooling stations. The Red Cross was providing food and water to those involved in the search. Four law enforcement officials were taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for treatment of heat exhaustion.

Howell Township Mayor Robert Walsh spent the afternoon with Castellano’s family at the hospital and called today a “tragic day.”

“It’s a tragedy that could have and should have been avoided,” Walsh said. “Now a family has to live with this their whole lives and a valuable young life has been lost – and it didn’t need to be.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) said she was “deeply saddened” to hear of Castellano’s death.

“His dedication to protecting our safety will never be forgotten,” Oliver said. “His loss is a yet another reminder of the constant danger our law enforcement officers bravely put themselves in front of each and every day. We must always be grateful for that service.”

Statehouse bureau reporter Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

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