By JACOB MARROCCO & DANIEL KITTREDGE
A Johnston firefighter was killed Tuesday in a motorcycle crash in Cranston.
Johnston Fire Chief Peter Lamb confirmed Wednesday that the department’s Richard Gemma, 45, died in the accident.
“The department is in shock,” Lamb said. “Any sudden loss, this was not a line-of-duty injury, but Richard spent his career as a firefighter helping others. When you work as closely as firefighters do on shifts, you eat together and so forth and there is a bond there and losing one of your own so suddenly and tragically. It’s having an impact on all of us.”
Johnston Firefighters Local 1950 announced Gemma’s passing through a Facebook post Wednesday morning. Just a short time late, it had been shared more than 140 times and drawn scores of comments offering condolences.
“Another hero fallen,” one of the commenters wrote. “Sending healing energy to family, friends, brothers and sisters.”
Cranston Police Maj. Todd Patalano said the crash occurred at approximately 5 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Belgium Street and Felicia Drive. Officers arriving at the scene found a 2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide motorcycle resting on its side and a number of bystanders attending to its operator and sole occupant, later identified as Gemma, who was lying next to a guardrail at the intersection.
Patalano said Gemma was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Gemma was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
According to Patalano, a preliminary investigation found Gemma was traveling north on Belgium Avenue when his motorcycle’s front tire struck curbing while he approached a left turn onto Felicia Drive.
“We believe he struck a curb and was unable to maintain control of the motorcycle … We believe he struck his head on the ground after the crash, and he suffered a traumatic head injury,” he said.
Patalano said it remains unclear what caused Gemma’s motorcycle to strike the curb, although speed does not appear to have been a factor. The investigation remains ongoing.
“Our condolences go out to the Gemma family and the entire Johnston Fire Department,” Patalano said.