OCEAN CITY — Six years ago this week, a small private plane crashed into the ocean off 130th Street, claiming the lives of two Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers, but a new scholarship keeps their memory fresh and ensures their passing was not in vain.
Around 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2013, 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. The sudden plane crash into the ocean was stunning enough on a sultry summer afternoon in front of a crowded beach, but when the word trickled out the victims were off-duty OCPD officers, it cast a pall over the entire community coming to grips with the tragedy.
Throughout that fateful afternoon and overnight into the next day, dozens of OCPD officers, community leaders and private citizens gathered on the beach in a makeshift vigil as crews worked offshore to recover the wreckage.
Just this week in the very council chambers where mourners gathered six years ago to the day, Councilman Mark Paddack, a former OCPD officer, recalled the memory of Geoghegan and Adickes and announced a scholarship has been set up in their names.
“I’d like to bring up the memory of two former Ocean City police officers,” he said at the close of Monday’s meeting. “Both of those gentlemen were off duty and were in an airplane crash off the coast of Ocean City around 130th Street several years ago.”
Paddack said a scholarship has been set up in the names of the fallen officers.
“The scholarship goes to a seasonal police officer that works for the town of Ocean City who is going on to pursue a career in law enforcement,” he said. “I extend my condolences out to my fellow colleagues who were close to both gentlemen and directly to their families.”
The Josh and Tommy Memorial Scholarship was created by Deputy Fire Marshal Ryan Whittington, who was close with Adickes, and OCPD Officer Jeff Heiser, who was close with Geoghegan. The annual scholarship will provide financial assistance to graduates of the OCPD seasonal police academy for educational purposes. The scholarship is a merit-based competition that focuses on rewarding ambitious, driven, goal-oriented individuals with a public safety career goal.
Six years after the tragedy, the victims’ families still gather with OCPD officers, friends and others in the community around the anniversary. It was during a recent memorial that the new scholarship was announced said Geoghegan’s mother Maureen Geoghegan this week.
“Recently, at the sixth memorial for my son Tom and his friend and co-worker Josh, our family was humbled and delighted to partake in the announcement and roll-out of the scholarship in their names,” she said. “This announcement means so much to my family because it allows for the memory of their lives and accomplishments to continue to have an impact on the community that they so loved. I know that Tommy would be so touched by the efforts of the Ocean City police and fire departments to honor him and Josh this way, but more importantly, he would be so thrilled that this scholarship will benefit those seasonal officers who wish to live a life of law enforcement. A life in law enforcement is a special calling and it is one that Tommy especially loved.”
Adickes’ mother, Jerry Adickes, was equally effusive in her praise of the new scholarship honoring the fallen officers.
“Josh’s family is so proud to be associated with this scholarship,” she said this week. “Josh loved his job and Ocean City. He would be thrilled to know that officers will be aided with their education in his name. Working that first summer in Ocean City was a perfect way to launch his career.”
The scholarship is being handled by the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore. Donations can be mailed to the Josh and Tommy Police Scholarship, care of the Community Foundation, 1324 Belmont Avenue, Suite 401, Salisbury, Md. 21804.
Six years ago, when the scheduled Mayor and Council meeting rolled around after the crash, OCPD officers and staffers crammed into council chambers ironically for the swearing-in ceremony of new Chief Ross Buzzuro, but that bit of formality was secondary to the real cause of the impromptu gathering.
“We lost two dedicated and courageous members of our Ocean City Police Department, and our Ocean City family,” Mayor Rick Meehan said as he addressed the standing-room only crowd in council chambers. “Josh Adickes and Tom Geoghegan were both officers that loved their jobs and served our community well. They were friends, lodge brothers and the loved ones of the people sitting in this room. They loved life, and they loved living in Ocean City, and they loved their police department. What I witnessed today was the compassion of the men and woman of our police department as they rallied around the families of both Josh and Tommy as the families sat on the beach. I had the opportunity to speak to the members of both families, and I can tell you it was that love and compassion that was helping them cope with this unimaginable tragedy.”
For his part, Buzzuro had recently been appointed to replace former OCPD Chief Bernadette DiPino and was scheduled to be officially sworn in on that Monday following the plane crash. As the newly-minted chief, Buzzuro had to shepherd his charges through likely the darkest days of the department.
“Although today makes a new beginning, and it is filled with the prospect of opportunity, it is also marked by grief,” Buzzuro said as he addressed the packed council chambers for the first time. “For today our hearts are heavy and filled with sadness. We will remember and never forget officers Tom Geoghegan and Josh Adickes, who both gave tremendous service to the community and exemplified what it means to be Ocean City’s finest. To their families, our thoughts and our prayers are with you. As a family and I stress as a family, we will celebrate in triumph and we will gain strength through tragedy.”
Six years later, the local law enforcement community, and indeed the entire resort community, still grieves over the unimaginable tragedy and the memory of the fallen officers has not dimmed, but Buzzuro’s words that night about celebrating triumph and gaining strength through tragedy continue to ring true.