OCEAN CITY — The tragic plane crash late last Sunday afternoon left the entire resort community and the local law enforcement family struggling for answers as they continue to come to grips with the loss of two beloved OCPD officers, including one who was posthumously promoted to Private First Class on Wednesday.
Around 4 p.m. last Sunday, a small plane crashed into the ocean about a quarter mile off the beach at 130th Street, claiming the lives of veteran OCPD Officer Tom Geoghegan, Jr., 43, of Ocean City, and his passenger, OCPD Officer Joshua Adickes, 27, of Berlin. In the days following the tragic crash, local residents and visitors, family members, friends and fellow police officers continued to come to grips with the tragic loss of two dedicated and promising officers. Adickes was posthumously promoted to Private First Class Wednesday.
Geoghegan was originally from Annapolis and began his career with the OCPD as a seasonal officer in 1991 and has served each summer since 2002. Geoghegan served numerous tours as an undercover narcotics agent. At the time of his death on Sunday, Geoghegan was assigned to the patrol division where he worked on the evening south shift.
Among his many talents, Geoghegan was an accomplished pilot with hundreds of hours logged taking friends and fellow officers up for tours around the resort area. He famously had cameras mounted on his Nanchang CJ-6A plane to catch the reactions of his less flight-savvy passengers. Over the last several months, local resident Bradley Wells was taking flying lessons from Geoghegan and this week recalled his staunch professionalism in the cockpit.
“He loved flying more than anything and he was always so professional when he was teaching me,” he said. “Everything was always by the book. We’d fly to Easton just to get a bowl of crab soup and fly back, but he was all business when we were in the plane. He took it very seriously and treated flying and the plane with the utmost respect.”
Local resident and business owner Todd Ferrante also got to know Geoghegan over the last year or so.
“He was a great pilot with a lot of experience,” he said. “I got to know Tom over the last year and he loved to fly. Every chance he got, he was up in the air.”
Ferrante said Geoghegan became a partner with him and others in a private, single-engine plane last year. He said Geoghegan loved to fly the plane because it was a little more comfortable on longer trips than the Nanchang in which he ultimately perished on Sunday.
“Most of our conversations were about flying,” he said. “When I heard it was that plane, I knew it was Tom and I was hoping it wasn’t, but I just knew. He was just a super nice guy and he was too young to die.”
Former OCPD officer Earl “Denny” Campbell this week fondly recalled the last time he saw Geoghegan.
“About a month ago, I was driving in around in Ocean City and saw Sgt. Ronnie Townsend on a traffic stop with Vicky Martin,” he said. “Ronnie told me to stop my car and go look who was sitting in the passenger seat of Vicky’s truck. I walked around his truck and noticed the clean-cut, clean-shaved, short hair, smiling face of Tom Geoghegan back in a patrol uniform. We chatted for a little bit and we joked about him being back in uniform and me being gone from OC altogether. It’s so crazy to look back now and to think that would be the last time I would ever see him. You just never know. Life is short and enjoy the friends you have in your life today because tomorrow isn’t promised.”
OCPD Lieutenant Mark Pacini said this week he worked directly with Geoghegan and Adickes for the last several years as Watch Commander of the Southern District Evening Shift. Geoghegan worked under Pacini’s command as a Boardwalk officer early in his career and when Pacini was moved to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the pair had the chance to work together again.
Pacini this week recalled when Geoghegan went deep undercover in the department’s Tipsy Taxi operation two years ago when he posed as a cab driver to infiltrate Worcester County’s illegal drug trade, resulting in dozens of indictments by a grand jury.
“Less than a handful of people knew what it took to pull off the Tipsy Taxi case,” he said. “Tom sacrificed a good two years of his life to make Worcester County safer. Working a long-term undercover operation can take a toll on you and Tommy seemed to thrive in his work. In that case, Tommy was very meticulous about documentation and ended up presenting a real nice case to the grand jury.”
Pacini recalled the early days of Tipsy Taxi when he had to bring Geoghegan before Mayor Rick Meehan to get him officially sworn in prior to the operation.
“Prior to Tommy going into his undercover role, I had to secretly bring him in to get him sworn in by the mayor,” he said. “During the brief swearing in, I told the mayor to remember him because he will be officer of the year some day in the future after this operation. Tommy was awarded the Bronze Star after the Tipsy Taxi case.”
After the Tipsy Taxi case, a clean-cut and shaven Geoghegan was back on the street as a regular patrol officer.
“For his safety, Tommy was moved back to patrol this summer,” he said. “As a manager, I was thinking that moving from a high-profile undercover case to a working sector would be mundane, but Tommy loved being out on a bike and out on the boards. He continued to work hard, imparted his expertise and time onto the new seasonal officers and was just a great employee and better guy.”
On top of his many other talents, Geoghegan was also computer savvy and used his vast knowledge to help the department in other ways.
“Many in our department, and the city also, don’t know that because of Tommy’s expertise in computer work, he assisted the administration of the department by lending his expertise,” said Pacini. “In one project, we calculated that Tommy donated about $10,000 worth of work to the city. This project kept our narcos safer and more efficient.”
Adickes was originally from Long Valley, N.J. and joined the OCPD as a seasonal officer in the summer of 2011 and was hired as a full-time officer in 2012. He was currently assigned to the patrol division and also worked on the evening south shift. According to an OCPD release, Adickes was fun-loving and charismatic and was liked by all who knew him. He loved the beach and loved being an Ocean City Police officer.
Adickes worked under Pacini on the Southern District for his last three deployments from last summer, through the winter and again this summer.
“Josh was very green last year working the Boardwalk,” he said. “Many outside of police work don’t understand that working the Boardwalk as compared to other areas is different. The Boardwalk is fast-paced. As a bike officer, it is even a faster pace as you often roll up on crimes in progress. Josh started to make a name for himself working street-level drug cases. He took a keen interest in taking dopers off our streets. It’s clear to me that one day he would have worked in the narcotics unit.”
Pacini recalled one of Adickes’ last reports.
“One of his last reports I read, I flagged it and sent it to his sergeant as it was a very thorough investigation,” he said. “Although a simple possession of marijuana case, he took the investigation a step further and after finding THC in the suspect’s room, Josh kicked the investigation up a notch and moved to the suspect’s vehicle, which was a distance away, and seized more marijuana from the vehicle. Josh was really coming into his own.”
Pacini said Adickes was dedicated to improving himself as a police officer and spent his own time last winter to attend a Pfc. Study Group session.
“It’s not a big deal for most who want to get promoted, but what was interesting about Josh attending this class was that he was not eligible to be promoted,” he said. “He took the time to write sample questions, actively participated in the eight sessions and ultimately made himself a better officer and the department a more professional operation. I issued him a positive counseling record for his dedication. He was a good kid.”
Like Geoghegan and many of the officers working in the Southern District, Adickes was a bike officer. Pacini said he quickly embraced his role as a bike officer and always went the extra mile.
“He loved it,” he said. “I noticed early on that he wanted to participate and give extra to the unit. I learned that he was coming in on his own time to fix bikes and he was real good with a wrench. We added Josh to the bike unit maintenance squad in the fall and he was assigned special details to maintain the bikes while the other guys on the unit trained our new seasonal officers during bike school.”
Beyond taking the extra classes and fixing the bikes on his own time, Adickes was remembered this week for his dedication and professionalism.
“Even after two years on the job when veteran officers’ salutes of their superiors sometimes wane, Josh made it a point at the beginning of each shift to get face to face with me, stop dead in his tracks and render me a salute,” said Pacini. Sometimes, the vigor of his salute would startle me. This, more than all above, should make people understand about Josh. He loved the job, gave the extra and respected his superiors. You could not ask for a better officer.”
Pacini said it was up to him as watch commander to break the bad news to his officers of the deaths of Geoghegan and Adickes on Sunday.
“On Sunday, I had to notify my officers of the deaths of these two young men,” he said. “There was a general knowledge that it was Tommy’s plane, but I had inside information on the way in from home that Josh was also in the plane. The young officers that I notified about Josh took it very hard.”