1 killed, 1 injured in bridge construction accident in Haverhill

RYAN HUTTON/Staff photoPolice inspect a lift on a barge in the Merrimack River in Haverhill on Wednesday. A construction worker was killed and another flown to a Boston hospital after a fall onto the barge, according to the Essex County District Attorney's Office.

HAVERHILL — A construction worker died and another was seriously injured when they fell from the bucket of a lift truck onto a barge Wednesday morning at a bridge repair project on Interstate 495 and River Street, authorities said. 

The two workers, for reasons still being investigated, fell as they were working on the bridge and landed on a barge tied below in the Merrimack River, according to Massachusetts State Police.

Haverhill police reported the accident at 115 Bank Road, near the Deluca car dealerships, to state police shortly before 10 a.m.

Troopers assigned to District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office and the state police crime scene services responded with Haverhill police. 

The worker who survived was initially taken to Lawrence General Hospital and later underwent surgery at Lahey Medical Center in Burlington, according to Carrie Kimball, Blodgett’s spokesperson. 

The other worker was pronounced dead almost immediately after the accident.

Their identities were not released by officials Wednesday. 

Both workers were employed by a state Department of Transportation contractor, according to a statement released by the agency. 

The DOT, in the statement, said it “will be cooperating fully with OSHA and other authorities in determining what occurred to lead to this tragedy.” 

The project involves removing and replacing the bridge that carries northbound and southbound drivers on I-495 over the Merrimack.

The $110 million project uses a “design-build project delivery process” and the team includes SPS New England Inc., based in Salisbury, and designer HNTB, the statement said. Officials with SPS New England Inc. arrived shortly after the incident.

A man wearing an International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4 union sweatshirt was allowed on the scene shortly before 11 a.m. It was unclear if the workers involved were affiliated with that union. 

The bridge replacement project has been underway since September and is expected to be complete by June 2022.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying it “is saddened to learn of a worker fatality and serious injuries to another worker at a bridge construction project in Haverhill.”

“The tragic event is a reminder that working at heights remains a very dangerous job and that it’s essential that employers take the time to carefully implement OSHA-required safety measures,” according to the statement. 

“Working from lifts exposes workers to numerous dangerous but preventable hazards. Workers can make contact with live electrical wires, lifts can overturn when placed on unstable ground, they can be struck by moving objects, and workers can fall from lift buckets when not provided with a fall protection system and fall restraints,” according to the coalition. 

OSHA regulations require employers to make sure that workers who operate aerial lifts are properly trained in the safe use of the equipment and to ensure employees operate elevating work platforms in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, according to the statement. 

“During this time where many of us make special plans to be with friends and family, the sudden death of a loved one who died attempting to make a living can be especially difficult,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan.

Recommended for you