Deputy Chief Michael Jepeal died in the one-car crash about 5 a.m. Sunday. The collision happened where routes 187 and 189 split, Bloomfield Police Capt. Stephen Hajdasz said.
The Nissan Maxima Jepeal was driving struck a rock formation in the median, Hajdasz said. Jepeal, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We were very saddened to learn about Deputy Chief Jepeal’s passing," Simsbury First Selectwoman Lisa Heavner said in an email Monday. "He lived an exemplary life of service and commitment to his community — 40 years in Tariffville and Simsbury. He will be dearly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Fire Chief James A. Baldis said Jepeal was “very passionate about the fire service.” A personable man, Jepeal also knew — and got along with — everyone, Baldis said.
“He really enjoyed life,” the chief said.
Jepeal began his time in the firefighting service with the Tariffville Volunteer Fire Company, Baldis said. When fire companies merged in the early ’80s, Jepeal became a member of the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company.
He worked his way up through the ranks to deputy chief, a post he has held 12 years, Baldis said.
Jepeal had a passion for training and was instrumental in teaching firefighters how to perform challenging rope and water rescues, Baldis said. The rope rescues have been necessary for hiker accidents on Talcott Mountain, and the water rescues were needed in the Farmington River Gorge.
In addition to teaching locally, the deputy chief also was an instructor at the Hartford County Fire School, where he became the co-director of training, and the Connecticut Fire Academy. The Connecticut Fire Department Instructors Association once recognized him as “Instructor of the Year,” the chief said.
Most recently, Jepeal worked in the certification division for the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control.
His wife, Joan Aletha Jepeal, died three years ago.
Bloomfield police continue to investigate the cause of the crash, Hajdasz said.
Courant staff writer Jordan Otero Sisson contributed to this story.