PEABODY — Dan Pimenta loved riding his bike. It was part of a daily routine formed years ago as he learned to cope with multiple sclerosis. It became a big part of the way he gave back to the MS community.
He and his wife, Donna, reflected on that earlier this spring in an interview with a Salem News reporter at their East End home. Pimenta, a Peabody native, had spent 25 years on the front lines fighting fires in his hometown, despite an illness that could easily have sidelined his career.
Pimenta, after 25 years, was finally opening up about his battle with MS to many of his fellow Peabody firefighters. He had recruited a team of them to ride with him in his eighth Bike MS: Cape Cod Getaway at the end of June.
It was an inspiring story. Later, Pimenta said, he would be approached by strangers around town, eager to shake his hand and thank him for his service.
Pimenta, 53, died Sunday after he was struck by a car while he was off duty, biking along Hale Street in Beverly Farms. The crash was reported shortly before 4:30 p.m., about a half-mile from the Manchester line. Police said a man driving a Jeep struck Pimenta's bike.
Details of the crash remained scarce Monday afternoon, other than that it appeared to have been a tragic accident.
Beverly police Officer Mike Boccuzzi, the department's spokesman, said no charges were pending against the driver, a 69-year-old Beverly man.
"It looks like this was a very horrible accident," Boccuzzi said.
Peabody fire Chief Steve Pasdon issued a brief statement Monday morning.
"Dan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 25 years ago, but never stopped firefighting and worked diligently to raise awareness for the disease," Pasdon said.
Pimenta had also started up the department's honor guard bike team, the chief said. The group rode in a variety of fundraising events.
On Sunday, at approximately 4:20 p.m., Beverly police and firefighters, along with medics from Northeast Ambulance, responded to the vicinity of 935 Hale St. after getting a report that a car had hit a bicyclist. When police arrived, Pimenta was already being tended by other first responders who had arrived earlier, Boccuzzi said.
A medical helicopter had been requested to transport Pimenta to the hospital, but that flight was later canceled. Instead, Pimenta was taken to Beverly Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The driver of the Jeep, Paul Fiore, 69, of Beverly was traveling in the northbound lane of Hale Street (Route 127) when the collision occurred, police said. He stayed at the scene. No further details were released.
That stretch of Hale Street is fairly wide compared to other sections of Route 127, leading from the Cove neighborhood through the Farms. There are breakdown lanes on both sides of the road and a sidewalk on the southbound side.
On Monday, a small memorial consisting of a pink flamingo, bicycle tire tube and a necklace of Mardi Gras beads was set up at the scene.
The Peabody firefighters' union posted an announcement about Pimenta's death on its Facebook page Sunday night. The post quickly drew an outpouring of support from area police and fire departments, as well as many Peabody residents, city officials and others who knew the Pimentas. The union statement read:
"It is with heavy hearts and deepest sadness that we announce the passing of active duty Firefighter Dan Pimenta who was struck while riding his bike in Beverly today. Dan was an avid rider and champion supporter for the MS Society. He rode every chance he got and he fought hard to raise awareness and support for this cause. We ask that you keep his loving wife and two children in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time."
On Monday, lawmakers observed a moment of silence for Pimenta at the Statehouse, at the request of Reps. Tom Walsh and Ted Speliotis. Both represent Peabody.
The National MS Society released a statement Monday that said, in part, "Our hearts are broken today with the news of the passing of Dan Pimenta. Dan was a longtime participant in our Bike MS rides, as well as many other Society events — and most of all, he was part of our MS community and family."
"Dan shared his commitment to finding a cure for MS with anyone and everyone — he rallied his family and friends, including his fire department family, to raise funds to support the mission of the National MS Society. He rode hundreds of miles, climbed 61 flights of stairs in his firefighter gear, and ran a 5k mud-obstacle course each year.
"He was an amazing champion for everyone affected by MS, and will be truly missed by all. ”
No one answered the phone at the Pimentas' home on Monday.
He and his wife have two adult children, Jake and Stephanie. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
Pimenta spent 27 years on the Fire Department, the first two on the reserve list until he was called up to active duty. He worked out of the Tremont Street station on Engine 4, just around the corner from his house.
Staff writer John Castelluccio can be reached at 978-338-2677 or email@example.com.