NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey police officer was killed and two more officers were critically injured when they drove the wrong way on to a highway early Friday morning and collided head-on with a tractor-trailor, police said.

The Linden, N.J., police officers who were off-duty, were driving in a Honda Civic at about 4:50 a.m. when they entered an expressway in the New York borough of Staten Island heading north in its southbound lanes, the New York City Police Department said in a statement.

New York police, who are investigating the crash, did not identify the men as officers, but other local police departments have sent tweets referring to the deceased as members of the Linden force. Police in Linden, a New Jersey suburb near Staten Island, were not immediately available for comment.

Two of the passengers, both 28, were killed in the collision, police said. The 27-year-old driver of the car and 23-year-old backseat passenger were transported to a local hospital and are in critical condition, they said.

The driver of the Honda was an officer and the two deceased passengers were an officer and a friend who was not on the police force, the New York Daily News reported.

The Daily News reported that the men were likely driving back from the Curves strip club in Staten Island when the crash occurred.

It was not clear why the men were driving the wrong way onto the expressway or if alcohol was a factor. The New York Police Department said it is investigating the incident.

The 34-year driver of the tractor-trailor is also being treated at an area hospital and is in stable condition, police said.

The collision comes six months after an off-duty New York City police officer drove the wrong way on the New York Thruway in Rockland County, north of the city, and crashed his pickup truck into another vehicle, killing himself and the driver of the other car.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernard Orr)