SALEM (CBS)  — Salem Police officer Dana Mazola was killed in a car crash late Thursday, the department confirmed. Mazola, 56, was off duty at the time.

Police responded to reports of a head-on collision on Jefferson Avenue in Salem just around 11:20 p.m.. Both cars involved had heavy front-end damage.

Mazola and the other driver were transported to Salem Hospital, where Mazola was pronounced dead. The other driver is alive but his condition is unknown, according to the Essex District Attorney’s Office.

A Salem Police officer was killed in a crash on Jefferson Avenue (WBZ-TV)

It is unclear what lead up to the crash. Massachusetts State Police will help with the investigation.

John Maslowski heard the crash from inside his home. When he came outside, he saw one man “all confused and worried about the guy in the car.”

“Fire department was real upset, I’m sure it’s somebody they knew,” Maslowski said.

Kevin Wilson was also nearby when the crash occurred. “The police officer’s car was complete mushed all the way up to the dashboard,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I knew there was something really personal to that police officer that I saw leaning over the hood of his car.”

A friend of Mazola’s came down to the crash scene. “I’m just shocked that he’s not here anymore,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. She said Mazola was “a big teddy bear, always very fair, always very kind. He did the best he could to help people out.”

Salem Police officer Dana Mazola (Photo Via: Salem Mayor’s Office)

Mazola had been on the force for 31 years. He was a husband and a father to twin girls.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a statement:

“I was absolutely devastated to learn very early this morning about the accident that took the life of Salem Police Officer Dana Mazola. Dana was a conscientious and professional officer, a loving husband and father, and a devoted public servant to the people of Salem. He was, as we say, the ‘salt of the earth’ – a conscientious rank and file patrol officer who worked hard every single shift. Our families often attended the same church services and I fondly recall his two girls helping keep my energetic (at the time) toddler occupied while seated in the pew next to ours. Dana had a big heart and was a warm and caring family man. On behalf of the residents he served with such diligence and dedication for 31 years, I want to express my deepest condolences to his wife Florene and his twin girls, Amanda and Savannah, and all of Dana’s family. This is an unimaginable and heartbreaking loss to them and to our whole community. May he rest in peace.” 

A statement from the police department said, in part:

“Officer Mazola was a father figure to officers new on the job and a sage big brother to fellow officers with many years of service underneath their belts…

No one could ask for a more loyal, dedicated and committed officer to serve the community and the Department the way Officer Mazola did every single day of his 31 years on the job. He was a man of integrity who had a heart as wide as the whole outdoors. There is not a single officer or employee who knew him, past or present, who is not impacted by the tragic and sudden loss of Dana Mazolaa.”

No charges have been filed at this time.

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