Two former hockey stars at Pembroke High School were killed in a violent car crash on slick wet roads over the weekend, plunging the community into mourning and unleashing an outpouring of generous donations to assist their grieving families.
Joseph Birolini, 23, of Hanson, was pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital from injuries he suffered in the crash that occurred just before 1 a.m. Saturday on Elm Street, the Plymouth district attorney’s office said Sunday.
William Hickey, 23, of Pembroke, the driver of the Lexus SUV, died from his injuries at the hospital at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, the DA’s office said.
The pair were among five people killed on Massachusetts roads on Saturday.
Early Saturday evening, three people were killed when a wrong-way driver crashed into a car on Interstate 84 in Sturbridge, State Police said.
Deyja Jackson, 40 of Worcester, was driving a 2009 Nissan Murano west in the eastbound lane she crashed into a 2011 Volvo XC60 near Exit 6B at about 6 p.m., State Police said Sunday. Jackson died as a result of her injuries.
The driver of the Volvo, Irene Karam, 83 of Manchester, N.H. and Patricia Knauer, 62 of Deland, Fla., also died, police said.
The crash is under investigation.
In Pembroke Sunday, mourners continued to visit a roadside memorial set up in Pembroke near where the 2012 Lexus SUV turned over near Elm Street and Mountain Ash Lane.
Hockey sticks were left against a damaged tree; the pair graduated from Pembroke High School in 2016. Floral bouquets and a red, white, and blue Pembroke High School hockey jersey and hat were placed nearby.
News of the former hockey standouts’ deaths stunned school officials and youth hockey teams in the town south of Boston. Late Saturday, educators and former coaches posted remembrances on social media.
“Our hearts are heavy today, as we mourn the passing of two tremendous Titans,” Pembroke High principal Marc Talbot wrote on Twitter. “Joe and Billy touched so many of our students and staff.”
Our hearts are heavy today, as we mourn the passing of two tremendous Titans. While they may have graduated 5 years ago, Joe and Billy touched so many of our students and staff. On behalf of the entire PHS community, our condolences to the Birolini and Hickey families.— Marc Talbot (@Pembroke_Titans) April 17, 2021
In a joint statement Sunday, three close friends from childhood called Birolini and Hickey “the best friends any person could have asked for.”
“They were selfless, caring, and so unbelievably special,” said the friends, Mike Fahie, Colin McCabe, and Joe Tarquini. “Joey and Billy always found ways to put the ones they cared about first. As natural born leaders, they always tried showing us the way. ... No questions asked, they were put on this earth to make everyone’s day just a little bit better with a meaningful laugh or conversation.”
The Pembroke High School hockey team shared links on its Twitter to the fund-raising pages.
“We lost two outstanding young men today who positively impacted everyone around them,” the team wrote in a tweet. “Our condolences to the Birolini and Hickey families. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”
We lost two outstanding young men today who positively impacted everyone around them. Our condolences to the Birolini and Hickey families. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. #twobeautsgonetooearly #hockeygodswilltakecareofthem pic.twitter.com/39ShWKXSxM— Pembroke Hockey (@Pembhockey) April 17, 2021
Hickey was a senior defenseman for the Salem State men’s hockey team, according to the Salem State athletics department.
“Billy was a well-respected and popular member of our Viking family, who excelled as a competitor on the ice, in the classroom, and as a leader in our community,” director of athletics Nicolle Wood said in a statement. Hickey was set to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in cartography and geographic information systems, Wood said.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz, whose office is investigating the crash, said Hickey was driving east-southeast on Elm Street when his SUV crossed into the opposite lane, veered off the road, hit a tree and rolled over before hitting a utility pole.
Pembroke police officers and firefighters found Hickey outside of the car and Birolini, the passenger, trapped inside.
“Preliminary, the investigation indicates that speed and inclement weather may have been factors” in the crash, Cruz said in a statement.
Correspondents Breanne Kovatch, Adam Sennott and Nick Stoico contributed to this story.
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.