SUMMIT, NJ - Summit Police Department Officer Matthew Tarentino, 29, died today in a three-vehicle accident on Interstate Highway 78 in Bernards that also claimed the life of another driver.

Summit Police Chief Robert Weck issued the following statement on his passing:

"In a tragic accident earlier today, the Summit Police Department and the entire city of Summit lost a valued officer, community member and friend. This loss has greatly affected not only our law enforcement community and the citizens of the city of Summit, but people far and wide.

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Matthew Tarentino epitomized what a law enforcement officer should be: a respected, trusted colleague with unshakeable dedication and enthusiasm for his calling. He was the face of the department’s community policing unit and understood the importance of building relationships within Summit. This was validated by our department being recognized last week by the NJ State Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino with the 2017 Outstanding Community Policing award.

To those who have reached out to our department, we thank you. Your support has been extraordinarily touching and is a clear indication of how well respected Officer Tarentino was in our community. During his short time with us, Matt created a lasting imprint on our department and the city.

While Officer Matthew Tarentino may be gone, he will never be forgotten. The coming days, weeks and months will undoubtedly be difficult for all of us. We ask for the continued support of the community and for everyone to keep his wife, two boys and family in your thoughts and prayers.

As information on the memorial service becomes available, it will be published on the city website."

Separately, in a letter sent electronically to parents with children in the Summit Public Schools, Superintendent June Chang called the loss "tragic" and noted Tarentino was "a great friend of our Summit Schools community" as evidenced by his multi-faceted involvement which included serving as "an instructor in our elementary DARE Program, a Stokes and Washington DC Trip chaperone at the middle school for the past several years, and he recently spoke to all of our Primary Center students as part of Community Helper Day."

Chang went on to note that "Officer Tarentino was an important part of the Summit community and a well-known face amongst the students and staff in Summit Public Schools" and relayed that the District was not going "to share this information with students during the school day.  We encourage parents to speak with their children this evening, and be open to discussing the grieving process with them. Resources for talking with children about grief will be available on our website at the following link later this afternoon: summit.k12.nj.us. Please know that school counselors, school psychologists, and social workers will be available today and throughout the coming days at each school to speak with students and staff in need of support."