, Newburyport, MA

January 16, 2013

Local man killed in crash

Police say victim may have had medical emergency

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — SEABROOK — Authorities are investigating whether a medical emergency played a part in a fatal rollover early Saturday morning on Batchelder Road that killed longtime Seabrook resident Thomas Rita.

Rita, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene after his car flipped over several times on the industrial road in the west part of town near Interstate 95.

Rita, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was ejected from his blue Jaguar and thrown many yards. No one else was in the car and no other vehicles were struck.

Seabrook police Lt. Michael Gallagher said Rita had complained of heart pain days earlier.

“We’re looking into the possibility that it may have been a medical issue,” Gallagher said.

It is unknown if speed also played a part in the crash as Gallagher said police are still investigating. The posted speed limit for the road is 35 mph.

Assisting local firefighters were police officers Ryan Kane, Frank Brown Jr., Keith Dietenhofer, Mark Richardson, Sgt. Jason Allen and Chief Lee Bitomske.

Born in Somerville, Rita grew up in Reading, where he attended Reading High School. He worked at Pat’s Towing in Seabrook for many years and was known as a devoted family man especially to his nieces and nephews. One of three children, he is also survived by his mother, Aurelia Rita of Seabrook.

Peter Diodati, service manager at Pat’s Towing, said Rita worked as a mechanic technician and was a member of the towing team for 20 years.

“He was just a great guy, huge heart, hard worker — just a loving guy,” Diodati said.

News of Rita’s death hit the tight-knit business hard, Diodati said.

“It was devastating, it’s still devastating. You can’t walk around here without someone crying,” Diodati said.

Co-workers, family and friends are expected to attend a funeral Mass celebrating Rita’s life today at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton, N.H.