PLYMOUTH — The commander of the Police Department’s motorcycle unit joked that he and Officer Gregory Maloney were “evil twins.”
Maloney was a bit shorter and trimmer, but other than that Sergeant Scott Vecchi said he and his fellow motorcycle officer and high school classmate looked very much alike.
“We look very similar and we get blamed for things the other one had done,” said Vecchi, in a moment of levity following a somber ceremony on Wednesday honoring Maloney, 43, who was killed while on duty in a motorcycle crash on Tuesday.
“I can say he was a great rider, which makes this all so harder to understand,” Vecchi said. “We all miss him.”
Maloney crashed at about 2:15 p.m. while riding on Samoset Street near the entrance of Plymouth Mobile Estates, Plymouth police said in a statement posted on the department’s website. A MedFlight helicopter took Maloney from the scene to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he died, police said.
At the time of the accident, Maloney was on patrol with another motorcycle officer, but his motorcycle was the only one that crashed, said Police Chief Michael Botieri.
Botieri said there is no obvious explanation for the crash, which is under investigation. He called Maloney the department’s “best motorcycle operator.”
“It’s kind of our worst nightmare, but I think they’re holding up with the support of each other,” Botieri said, in the lobby of police headquarters, of Maloney’s fellow officers.
Officers, firefighters, town officials, and others gathered Wednesday afternoon in front of the police station to greet Maloney’s body as it returned to Plymouth from Boston. A massive American flag was suspended between two fire ladder trucks at police headquarters, where black bunting hung over the entrance.
Flags in front of the station were lowered to half-staff, and a growing memorial of flowers and stuffed animals sat at the base of one of the flag poles.
Just after 4 p.m., a hearse carrying Maloney’s body arrived with an escort of Plymouth and motorcycle officers from surrounding communities who belong to the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council. Maloney was a member of the council’s Mobile Operations Motorcycle Unit, Botieri said.
Sergeant Marty Mason, a high school friend of Maloney’s, held the American flag in the Plymouth Police Department Honor Guard that participated in the tribute.
“It’s like a double-edged sword,” said Mason, who has known Maloney since middle school. “I’m glad I can represent my friend and his memory today. I’d give anything to give it all back not to have to do it.”
Maloney joined the Police Department 17 years ago and was named to its motorcycle unit when it was re-established in 2009. Mason said the motorcycle unit was a natural fit for Maloney, who he described as a car buff.
“He loved it,” Mason said. “The second happiest place on earth for him was when he was on that bike riding and the other was when he was with his kids.”
Maloney and his wife Susan have two boys, an eighth-grader named Gregory and a sixth-grader named Michael, Mason said.
The older son graduated from Plymouth’s junior police academy last week, said Laurie Caraher, whose husband, Paul, ran the course.
“His father was so proud of him,” she said.
Maloney was known to tinker with engines and work on muscle cars, or high-performance vehicles, his fellow officers said. He owned a 1970 Chevelle and a 1968 Corvette convertible, according to Mason.
“Gregg’s been a muscle car guy since high school,” Vecchi said. “His car was beautiful. It was immaculate. You could eat off the motor.”
A few months back Maloney’s Chevelle experienced a mechanical problem and burned in his driveway, Vecchi said. Maloney was considering whether to replace it with another car or a motorcycle, and asked Vecchi for his motorcycle recommendations last week, he said.
“It’s a very hard thing for all of us to grasp, especially those who ride,” Vecchi said. “The motorcycle unit is a small group of individuals and we all ride all the time so it’s just very hard to wrap ourselves around this tragedy.”
Correction: Because of an editing error, a headline accompanying this story in Thursday’s print edition of The Boston Globe misstated the nature of events the town held.