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Woman Crushed in Steel Bridge Mishap

Monday, January 6, 2014

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Authorities are investigating how an open Boston drawbridge came to crush a mother of two as she stood on it last week.

Investigators, who call the tragedy an accident, are working to determine how the bridge operator failed to see the woman on the span. 

Relatives identified the woman as 46-year-old Aura Garcia, mother of a 16-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

Screams for Help

A preliminary investigation found that Garcia had been trying to walk across the Meridian Street Bridge in East Boston when it was raised to allow a vessel to pass on the Chelsea River below, according to a statement from the Boston Police Department.

Meridian Street Bridge
Flickr / imcndbl

Aura Garcia was crushed between the steel plates on the Meridian Street Bridge.

After hearing Garcia's screams, the bridge operator lowered the bridge, police said. However, she was crushed between the massive steel plates, suffering "massive trauma," and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The bridge operator, who is currently on unpaid leave, is cooperating fully with the investigation and was taken to an area hospital for stress-related conditions.

Investigations Pending

Police are still working to piece together the events leading up to the fatality, but Boston police detective sergeant, Thomas Foley, told The Boston Globe that the woman was "clearly atop the bridge when it opened."

It was unclear whether Garcia ignored warning lights or if the bridge operator failed to make sure the bridge was clear. Homicide detectives will look at video surveillance to try to determine what happened.

According to The Boston Herald, rescuers reported that Garcia's head struck the bridge deck before she fell below it.

Boston bridge death
Screenshot CBS Boston

Investigators are trying to determine if Garcia ignored warning lights or if the bridge operator failed to make sure the bridge was clear.

Firefighters worked until about 4:30 p.m. to recover Garcia's body and lower it onto a rescue boat.

A hearing on the incident will be held this week, Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas Menino, told Reuters. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating.

Operator's Safety Record

On Thursday (Jan. 2), the city's Public Works Department told The Boston Globe that the bridge operator has consistently followed a 20-step safety procedure, which includes sounding a warning horn, flashing traffic lights, and checking for vehicles and pedestrians.

"He's a good employee," Joanne Massaro, commissioner of the Public Works Department, said. "I think he did all he thought he could do to make sure it was a safe opening."

Once the police and OSHA investigations are complete, the department will determine if any changes to its bridge operating procedures are necessary, Massaro said.

The Meridian Street Bridge operators receive training from contractor BEC Electrical Inc.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Fatalities; OSHA

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