Police have rallied around the family of a sergeant who died in a crash at Allandale on Saturday night.
Port Stephens Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson was travelling alone in a police car on Lovedale Road when the vehicle left the road and hit a tree near the rail underpass about 11.50pm.
He was on his way to help colleagues involved in a pursuit elsewhere in the Hunter when the crash occurred.
The father of two died at the scene before emergency crews arrived.
Neighbours told Fairfax Media they heard the engine of the police car as it passed their home before a loud bang made them look to see what had happened.
Lovedale resident Henry Cattell was the second person to arrive at the scene. His wife, Cathy, phoned triple-0.
"We heard him coming down the hill, then the next minute there was a crash," Mrs Cattell said. "It was pitch dark. There are no lights [on the road].
"There was a car behind him that pulled up and I rang triple-0 while my husband ran down with a torch.
"Unfortunately, the police officer was just doing his job."
Mr Cattell said other officers who attended the scene looked distraught.
He said there were often crashes on the bend. A motorcycle crashed and a cement truck tipped in separate incidents earlier this year.
Emergency crews kept a section of Lovedale Road closed, between the New England Highway and the Hunter Expressway, until about noon on Sunday while they investigated and cleared the scene.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione paid tribute to Sergeant Richardson outside Nelson Bay police station on Sunday morning.
“It’s a very sad day for the NSW Police Force today,” Commissioner Scipione said.
“We have farewelled one of our officers.
“Forty-three-year-old Geoffrey Richardson from the Port Stephens Local Area Command was tragically lost to us, killed in a motor vehicle accident just before midnight last night.”
Commissioner Scipione met with Sergeant Richardson’s wife and two children on Sunday morning to offer his condolences.
He said police had been at the family home since last night and would remain there to offer their support.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said Sergeant Richardson was “a fine police officer”.
“Our thoughts are with the sergeant’s family,” he said.
A critical incident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash has begun.
Details of the pursuit to which Sergeant Richardson was responding have not yet come to light.
Newcastle Crash Investigation Unit will assist a critical incident team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash.
That investigation will be overseen by the Professional Standards Command.
Sergeant Richardson graduated from the NSW Police Academy in 1998 and served in the Campbelltown command until 2005, when he was transferred to Cobar and promoted to the rank of senior constable.
He was transferred to the Central Hunter command, which has its headquarters in Maitland, in 2010 before he became a sergeant and was moved to Lake Macquarie.
Sergeant Richardson joined the Port Stephens command last July.
In a tribute released on Sunday, NSW Police Force noted that Sergeant Richardson had received several awards, including a commendation for bravery for arresting a number of offenders in Nelson Bay when he was off duty, in 2012.
“In every sense, he was a hard -working, highly regarded, popular and committed police officer, who will be sorely missed by the organisation he so ably represented and the communities he diligently served,” the statement said.
“Above all else, he was a loving and much-loved husband and father.”