NEWBURYPORT — Work crews rebuilding the Whittier Bridge were reminded of safety protocols yesterday, the morning after a worker fell 10 feet off a barge and into the Merrimack River around 5 p.m. Tuesday just as his shift was ending.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MasDOT) spokesman Michael Verseckes said a Walsh Construction employee working on a construction barge was preparing to get on an arriving tugboat for a ride back to shore when he slipped and fell into the water. In the process, the worker’s upper torso slammed into the barge. Other Walsh crew members, who had been trained in water rescues, retrieved the worker from the water and transported him to land, Verseckes added.
By the time Newburyport firefighters arrived at the scene to assist, the worker was at the Spring Lane project site and was walking on his own. As a precaution, the worker was transported to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport where he was diagnosed with four cracked ribs, according to Verseckes.
Newburyport fire Chief Christopher LeClaire said firefighters from both stations responded to the scene, located near the city’s water pumping and filtration station. He estimated the water as roughly 40 degrees in temperature but said the worker was pulled out before hypothermia set in.
The roughly $300 million bridge replacement project — considered one of the largest highway jobs in the state — will involve demolishing the 58-year-old, six-lane span connecting Amesbury and Newburyport over the Merrimack River and replacing it with an eight-lane bridge with four lanes on each side. It also includes the replacement or reconstruction of eight nearby bridges along I-95 in Newburyport and Amesbury and widening I-95 between exit 57 in Newburyport and exit 60 in Salisbury.
According to MassDOT, the project is proceeding on schedule with most of the work due to be completed by August, 2016. The project is slated to be officially completed by October, 2016.