Tamar Bucci had a passion for helping people and a competitive streak that led her to challenge the men at the Somerville gym where she worked to fitness competitions. But she was most fervent about her goal of becoming a Massachusetts State Police trooper.
Just two years after starting her “dream” job as a trooper, Bucci was fatally injured when a tractor-trailer hauling 10,000 gallons of gasoline slammed into her marked cruiser on Interstate 93 in Stoneham around 11:45 p.m. Thursday, State Police said.
Bucci, who celebrated her birthday in the last few days, was 34 years old.
“That was her real dream — she wanted to be a cop. Not just a cop, but a state trooper,” said Pat Catino, who hired Bucci to work at the Assembly Sports Club in Somerville in 2017. “She wanted to change the perception that police were the bad guys. She wanted to let people know they’re not — they’re nice people who take the job seriously and have a willingness to help people and to uphold the law. I think she was motivated by that.”
The crash took place in the northbound lanes near Exit 27, where two good Samaritans and a Stoneham police officer tried emergency lifesaving techniques before EMS crews arrived on the scene. Bucci was then rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where she was pronounced dead early Friday, said Colonel Christopher Mason, the top State Police commander.
“Her life was cut too short, too soon. Last night on a stretch of road she protected every night on the midnight shift, Trooper Bucci gave her life in the act of trying to help another person in distress. There is no greater act of sacrifice than to give one’s life for another,’’ Mason said during a press conference Friday at the Medford barracks.
Bucci graduated from the State Police Academy in May 2020 and was initially assigned to the barracks in Brookfield before transferring to the Medford barracks in January, Mason said.
Bucci had pulled over on the northbound side of the highway, her cruiser’s blue lights flashing, around 11:45 p.m. to assist a disabled motorist who had stopped in the breakdown lane. Her vehicle was then struck by the fully loaded tractor-trailer, Mason said.
Mason expressed his thanks to the two people who pulled Bucci from her wrecked cruiser so the Stoneham officer could start CPR. But no one, including the medical staff at MGH, was able to save her, Mason said.
“In my conversations with some of the investigators that were at the scene, they describe the actions of the good Samaritans as heroic, immediate, and decisive,” Mason said.
Patrick McNamara, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, publicly thanked the people who rushed to Bucci’s aid. He said Bucci’s fellow troopers are “heartbroken … [by] this tragic and senseless loss of life.”
”It’s never easy when one of our members is taken from us. It reminds us of the dangers we face every day while in service to the Commonwealth,” McNamara said at the Medford press briefing. “Trooper Bucci is not just a co-worker to us, she was our sister. …We ask everyone to keep her family and our members in their thoughts and prayers during this immensely difficult time.”
Late Friday night, officers, many of whom had waited for hours in the cold, saluted as the motorcade escorting Bucci’s body turned onto Albany Street at 11 p.m., led by troopers on motorcycles.
Governor Charlie Baker ordered flags at state office buildings lowered to half staff in honor of Bucci.
“Our sincere and heartfelt thoughts are with Trooper Bucci’s family during this heartbreaking time,” Baker wrote on Twitter. “Trooper Tamar Bucci embodied the best of the Massachusetts State Police, and her loss is devastating to her loved ones, the Commonwealth and her brothers and sisters in blue.”
There is no greater sacrifice than giving your life in service of others. Trooper Tamar Bucci embodied the best of the Massachusetts State Police, and her loss is devastating to her loved ones, the Commonwealth and her brothers and sisters in blue.— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) March 4, 2022
Bucci leaves her parents, two sisters, a stepsister, and a stepbrother, Mason said. She was a resident of Woburn and worked in the security department at the Encore casino in Everett before joining the State Police, he said. She was a graduate of Middlesex Community College and Andover High School.
Family members could not be reached for comment Friday.
The tractor-trailer involved in the crash is owned by P.J. Murphy Transportation Inc. of Methuen. A receptionist who answered the phone said she had no information to share.
Mason said the driver remained at the scene after the crash. He was uninjured. No charges or citations have been issued against him, but Mason stressed the investigation was just getting underway.
The driver of the disabled vehicle, a woman, was rushed to a local hospital for evaluation. Mason said it was not yet clear whether the damage to the disabled driver’s vehicle resulted from contact with Bucci’s cruiser or the tractor-trailer.
Bucci is the 22nd trooper in the department’s history to die in the line of duty, Mason said.
Bucci worked as a personal trainer in Somerville from 2017 to 2019, before leaving to work at the casino, which she left in 2020 to join the State Police.
Catino spent part of Friday meeting with staffers at the Somerville gym where many who worked with Bucci remain on staff. “It’s a big loss and everybody really felt it. It hit home because when she was at the gym, she was family,” he said.
Catino said Bucci would sometimes challenge the men who worked as trainers to fitness competitions — and would often win. “She was very vibrant and had a great personality. Her smile lit up the room when she walked in. She just was very competitive about her fitness, always trying to outdo herself and loved to go challenge herself in the gym, whether it was doing pushups or chin-ups or different exercises.”
On Thursday night, Catino said, he noticed on social media that Bucci was turning 34 years old, and he sent her a congratulatory note. When he woke up Friday, he picked up his phone, saw that she had replied — and then turned on the television.
“I heard them telling us about the tragedy that happened, and I said to my wife, ‘Oh my God,’ ” said Catino, whose wife, Lucinda Catino, had worked with Bucci.
“She came running in the room saying, ‘What? What? What?’ And we looked at the TV and were both overwhelmed. We saw her picture up there. The news of what happened was gut-wrenching.”
He added: “My heart goes out to her family.”
Globe correspondents Matt Yan and Jeremy Fox contributed to this report.
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