‘Outstanding Young Men': Pembroke Community Mourns 2 High School Grads Killed in Crash

Former classmates and hockey teammates Joseph Birolini and William Hickey, both 23, were remembered on social media as "outstanding young men who positively impacted everyone around them." The two had known each other since kindergarten.

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The Pembroke community is mourning the loss of two well-known high school graduates who were killed Saturday in a tragic car crash.

The Plymouth County District Attorney identified the victims Sunday as Joseph Birolini, of Hanson, and William Hickey, of Pembroke, both 23.



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The former classmates and hockey teammates -- known by friends and family as Joey and Billy -- were remembered on social media as "outstanding young men who positively impacted everyone around them."

The Pembroke High School hockey team shared links on its Twitter feed to two GoFundMe pages created to support the families of each of the young men, and asked people to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.

Pembroke High School Principal Marc Talbot said that despite graduating a handful of years earlier, Birolini and Hickey had a tremendous impact on the school community.

"Our hearts are heavy today, as we mourn the passing of two tremendous Titans," Talbot said on Twitter. "While they may have graduated 5 years ago, Joe and Billy touched so many of our students and staff. On behalf of the entire PHS community, our condolences to the Birolini and Hickey families.

Birolini and Hickey had known each other since kindergarten and were best friends. Their friends tell NBC10 Boston the two were always together, and they were well-loved in the community.

According to investigators, the pair was traveling together east on Elm Street just before 1 a.m. when their Lexus SUV crossed the center line, left the roadway, struck a tree, rolled over and struck a utility pole before coming to a rest.

First responders rushed to 104 Elm Street after Pembroke police received several 911 calls reporting the single-vehicle crash around 12:57 a.m.

Hickey, who was driving, was found outside the vehicle. Biroloni was trapped inside and had to be freed by emergency responders.

Both were taken to South Shore Hospital where Birolini died from his injuries. Hickey later succumbed to his injures at the hospital around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, the DA said.

News of the former athletic standouts' deaths stunned the community south of Boston. Remembrances poured in on social media Saturday, while nearby Massachusetts' communities like Falmouth, Weymouth and Middleborough offered their condolences to Pembroke.

A memorial has been growing on Elm Street, with an abundance of flowers, hockey sticks and pucks surrounding a hockey jersey at the scene of the crash.

The Pembroke Youth Hockey program said in a Facebook post on Saturday that Pembroke and surrounding communities had already raised close to $100,000 for the Birolini and Hickey families. As of Sunday, that total was close to $200,000.

"It is with great sadness to share that we have lost 2 amazing Pembroke young men as a result of a tragic car accident in our town early this morning," the team said in a post. "Joey Birolini and Billy Hickey are both Pembroke Youth Hockey alumni. They were both part of the greatest PYH Peewee A team of all time, going 50-0 and winning the State Championship in 2011, and their team banner hangs at Hobomock rink 1."

Hickey was a senior student-athlete at Salem State University, ready to graduate in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in cartography and geographic information systems. He was remembered Sunday as a "well-respected and popular member of our Viking family, who excelled as a competitor on the ice, in the classroom, and as a leader in our community."

"As our community processes this immense loss, we send our deepest condolences to Billy's family, teammates, coaches, and friends," the school said in a statement.

Hickey's hockey coach Bill O'Neill raved about the 6'4" defenseman, saying not only was he the player you wanted on your team, but he was the person you wanted in your family.

"Billy was such a tremendous human being. He strived to be the best in everything he did," O'Neill said. "You would want Billy on your team as he was the player that made everyone else better. You would want Billy to be part of your family, as you could trust him and his loyalty was unwavering. We all loved him and are devastated by the loss."

"Billy was just like the goofiest, funniest kid ever," Hickey's friend Julianna Stacy said.

"The life of the party, always making everyone smile, making everyone laugh, always entertainer,” Hickey's friend Kate Joy added.

Stacy and Joy say Hickey could always be counted on.

"He made a lot of stuff, he made like the bar at Landon's house," Stacy said.

"He was Mr. Fix It. Flat tire, you call him right up," Joy added. “He was just such a good guy. We all miss him so much, just taken way too soon."

Left: Billy Hickey, of Pembroke. Right: Joey Birolini, of Hanson. Both were 23.

Birolini's mom told NBC10 Boston that her son graduated from UMass Boston and was supposed to be apartment hunting this weekend with his girlfriend.

She says he was the "best son, best brother, best everything."

"He was just a great, great kid," she said through tears.

Birolini's mom says there will be a vigil this week for the boys, tentatively Thursday, most likely near the high school.

The district attorney said Sunday that a preliminary investigation indicates that speed and inclement weather may have been factors in the fatal crash.

There was a snowy spring storm in New England on Friday, with some areas picking up half a foot of snow, while others got a coating on the ground followed by rain showers. The wind also ramped up with gusts up to 50 mph in some areas.

An investigation by Massachusetts State Police detectives and Pembroke police is ongoing.

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