A New Jersey State trooper trying to help after a car fire along Interstate 295 in Gloucester County wound up becoming the victim of a crash himself.
Trooper Sean Cullen died overnight at Cooper University Hospital, New Jersey State Police said on Facebook. [[371364901, C]]
The 31-year-old was among a group of fire and police personnel who had responded to a car fire that injured two people near Exit 25 on I-295 in West Deptford around 8:20 p.m. Monday. As the trooper assisted at the scene, a passing vehicle struck him.
"Trooper's down," can be heard on 911 audio obtained by NBC10.
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Medics airlifted Cullen to Cooper University Hospital where doctors treated him for head injuries. Various police officers and troopers stopped by the hospital overnight to check on their colleague.
Around 12:30 a.m. state police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes told those gathered in the waiting room Tuesday that Cullen -- who joined the state police in August 2014 -- succumbed to his injuries, said police.
"It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of Trooper Sean Cullen, who made the ultimate sacrifice while helping those in need," said Fuentes. "His life and service to the citizens of New Jersey can be characterized as honorable, loyal, and faithful."
The 22-year-old woman who struck the trooper stayed at the scene, cooperated with the investigation and wasn't immediately charged, said police. [[371387941, C]]
"The sudden and tragic loss of New Jersey State Trooper Sean Cullen reminds us how fragile life truly is and the dangers police officers face daily on the job," said Gov. Chris Christie in a statement.
Cullen, a native of Ireland who graduated from Cinnaminson High School before becoming an All-American wrestler at Lycoming College, was stationed in the Bellmawr barracks after previously serving in Westhampton and Mount Holly police departments, said state police. [[371411701, C]]
Cullen left behind a fiance, 9-month-old baby boy, his parents, a sister, a brother and an older brother who is also a trooper.
Cullen began his law enforcement career with the Sea Isle City Police Department in 2006.
Best friend Andrew Einstein called Cullen the "Jim Carey of our small community," someone who made people feel better through laughter. He also said Cullen wanted so badly to be a trooper and worked his way through multiple police academies to get to his goal.
Troopers who worked directly with Cullen were given some time off -- covered by other troopers -- so they could grieve, said state police spokesman Steven Jones. Troopers could also be seen lowering the flag outside the Bellmawr barracks to half staff Tuesday morning.
It wasn't clear the extent of injuries to the people involved in the original crash.
The wreck left the stretch of I-295 closed for hours but the roadway reopened overnight.