LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A New Jersey State Trooper from Lakeland was killed Monday night in a violent head-on collision, leaving his family and friends back home in Florida to mourn.
Trooper Frankie Williams was responding to a call when a car traveling in the opposite direction crossed the grassy median and slammed into his cruiser head-on, authorities said. The driver of the other vehicle was also killed.
The horrific crash occurred at about 7 p.m. Monday, leaving debris and mangled cars scattered on Route 55 in Millville in southern New Jersey. Officials say a man traveling south in a Toyota Corolla crossed the median into the northbound lanes and slammed into a Williams' marked state police vehicle.
Trooper Frankie Williams, 31, was flown to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was pronounced dead, state police said. The driver of the other car was pronounced dead at the scene, but has not been identified. The crash remained under investigation early Tuesday.
Frankie Williams was a rookie state trooper who was born and raised in Lakeland. A graduate of George Jenkins High School, his friends and family told FOX 13 that Williams had always dreamed of working in law enforcement ever since he was a young boy.
Williams had just recently graduated from the training academy on January 29, and was a member of the 156th State Police Class in New Jersey. But that wasn't the only major life event Williams had this year. He married his fiance of six years on September 30, just two months before Monday night's crash took his life.
"He's been my best friend since I was 10-years-old," Williams' best man in his wedding, Derrick Bennett said.
Bennett said Williams had a magnetic personality that lit up any room he entered.
Others remember his tenacity.
"No matter what he went through, he got right back up and he took on every challenge and he did it well," said Donna Wood, who remembers Williams playing with other neighborhood kids in her yard.
Toni Albritton, a friend of Williams from Lakeland, told FOX 13, "He’d just gotten his life started basically… it’s just devastating to everyone."
Williams had a reputation as a kind man and was well-liked not only in the Lakeland community, but by his colleagues in New Jersey as well.
Friends and family said his lifelong dream was to be a police officer. He realized that dream when he graduated from the New Jersey State Police Academy last January. Williams was also pursuing a masters degree in criminal justice.
New Jersey State Police recalled an time in August when Williams saved the life of a toy poodle that was locked in a hot car and in critical condition. Williams broke the car's window with his baton, and gave the dog water until it was taken to a veterinary hospital.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office posted the tragic news, along with the following heartfelt message on their Facebook page Tuesday:
"It is with a heavy heart that we share this news - Trooper Frankie Williams, a former Polk County resident, was killed in a vehicle crash on Monday, December 5, 2016.
Trooper Williams attended Medulla Elementary, Lakeland Highlands Middle School, and graduated from George Jenkins High School.
He was a fearless young man who left great memories for his Polk County friends. He was 31-years of age.
To the Williams family, Trooper Williams’ co-workers and friends, we extend our deepest sympathy. Rest in Peace Trooper Williams."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.