CAMBRIDGE — MIT police Chief John DiFava expressed relief Thursday morning that the memorial to slain MIT police Officer Sean Collier suffered minimal damage overnight when a 52-year-old man drove his car into the granite landmark in an apparent accident.
Standing near the memorial at Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street, DiFava said he received a telephone call and photos shortly after the 12:36 a.m. crash that raised fears that the crash caused major destruction.
“The extent of the damage was not known at that time,’’ he said. “I was texted a lot of pictures.”
But once the car was gone and the sun had risen, DiFava said he was pleased to see the impact was limited. “Thank God, it isn’t as bad as it could have been,’’ he said.
Marks and scratches that resemble the front end of a car, along with stains of what appears to be oil or some type of automobile fluid, were mostly contained to just one of the 32 granite blocks making up the memorial.
Collier was killed in his cruiser by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a late-night confrontation on April 18, 2013.
DiFava, who gave an emotionally powerful remembrance at Collier’s memorial service, said he and his fellow officers have not forgotten the 27-year-old, who had developed strong ties with the MIT community during his 15 months on the force.
“The type of person he was, the circumstances under which he died — you don’t forget it,’’ said DiFava, who added that the officers in the small MIT police force think of Collier, “every day. Every day.”
DiFava also said that Collier had built strong ties across the MIT campus, and his death hit the wider community as hard as it did the police force.
“The morning after he was murdered, it was all flowers, all kinds of mementoes. And that continued’’ through the planning for the memorial and its construction, he said.
Now, the memorial has become a campus landmark for those who knew him, and those who did not.
The driver who struck the memorial, who has not been identified, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to Cambridge police, which is investigating the incident.
Jeremy Warnick, a Cambridge police spokesman, said the driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the crash does not appear to have been intentional.
Amid the morning rush of pedestrians across the campus, some paused to survey the damage.
Jack McGlashing, a project mechanic for MIT who has worked at the university for 37 years, admired how well the memorial appeared to have weathered the impact of the car. He said the structure had been assembled by a crane with “no nuts or bolts.”
“It’s like a Lego set,” McGlashing said. “All the parts just snapped into place.”
He said he was relieved when he learned that the damage was not intentional.
“I came around the corner about 10 past six this morning and I thought somebody had defaced it,” he said. I was like, come on! I was really upset.”Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.