A car crashed into a group of four friends riding their motorcycles in Vermont Sunday morning, killing the former chief of the Kingston, Mass., Police Department and injuring the former chief of the Hudson, Mass., Police Department, officials said.
Joseph Rebello, 55, Richard Braga, 57, and two others were on Route 14 in Woodbury when a 1996 Subaru Legacy crossed the center line and hit two of the four, Vermont State Police said.
Rebello, who retired as head of Kingston police in January 2013, was killed; and Braga, who retired in 2012, was severely injured, State Police said. The two other motorcyclists, who were not identified, avoided the car and were uninjured, police said.
According to State Police, Frank Sargent, 52, of Woodbury, was driving the Subaru north on Route 14 when he crossed the center line and hit Braga, then Rebello.
Rebello, a married father of two, died at the scene, police said. Braga was taken to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington. Sargent also received minor injuries in the crash.
“Joe was a great leader, a great motivator,” current Kingston Chief Maurice J. Splaine said in an interview Sunday. “I had the utmost respect for him. He basically mentored me to follow in his footsteps.”
Kingston Board of Selectmen chairwoman Elaine A. Fiore said Rebello had a knack for working closely with the community and stayed active in the town after he retired.
Rebello led three Massachusetts departments over the course of 23 years and served as the president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Splaine said. Before taking over the Kingston force in 2005, Rebello served as chief in Stow and Monson.
Former colleagues remembered him as a strong and respected leader with a passion for motorcycles and the communities he served.
Stow Sergeant Timothy J. Lima called Rebello a “cop’s cop.”
“You knew where you stood with him,” Lima said. “In this business that’s a good thing to know.”
Monson Chief Stephen Kozloski said Rebello got his start as a cadet in Amherst, before joining the University of Massachusetts Amherst Police Department, where he rose through the ranks to sergeant.
In the early 1990s, Rebello was hired as chief of the Monson force, where he transformed the small-town department into a modern agency,
Rebello implemented the town’s first computerized record system, and developed the community policing program and bike program, he said.
“We continue to be a small agency, but before he took over, it was an agency that had very small resources to respond to the public,” Kozloski said.
Rebello left Monson to take the top job in Stow in 2001, where he stayed for four years before departing for Kingston.
Lima and Kozloski recalled Rebello’s love for motorcycles, saying it was a frequent topic of conversation.
Rebello, Braga, and the two other riders were returning from a trip to Newport, Vt., at the time of Sunday’s accident, said Hudson Selectman Scott R. Duplisea, a friend of Braga’s who had been invited but could not attend.
No charges had been filed as of Sunday evening, but the crash remained under investigation.