Two people died when they were struck by a truck at a construction site in downtown Boston on Wednesday, officials said. The deaths are now under investigation by the Suffolk District Attorney's Office with assistance from the city and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to DA Rachael Rollins.
The workers were struck by a dump truck on High Street in the city's Financial District just after 8 a.m., interim police Commissioner Gregory Long said during a news conference at the scene.
The men, trapped in a trench, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Whether the men were knocked into the trench after getting hit or were working in the trench at the time remains under investigation, he said.
A crane was brought in to lift the truck off the trench and a Boston firefighter and EMT were lowered into the hole to check on the victims after it was determined the site was safe.
Leslie Villalobos was at the scene, and says her brother Jordan Romero is one of the men who died.
"My brother's a great guy, man. They always say they take the good ones when they're young," she told WBUR. "My brother was just an amazing person. Cared for everybody, looked out for everybody, loved his family, he loves his children, and it's really sad to see him gone."
Authorities have not released the names of the victims.
Mayor Marty Walsh says he's suspending Atlantic Coast Utilities work permit for the city until a thorough investigation of the deaths is complete.
"As a former laborer, the safety of our workers is of paramount importance to me," Walsh said in a statement. "I’m heartbroken that two hardworking people lost their lives so suddenly and tragically this morning, and we will work tirelessly to understand how this happened in order to create safer conditions in the future."
After the incident Wednesday morning, OSHA opened an inspection of Atlantic Coast Utilities.
"The purpose of OSHA's inspection is to determine whether or not there have been any violation of workplace safety standards," an OSHA spokesperson said in a statement.
Atlantic Coast Utilities has been penalized by OSHA twice in the last five years, both times for trench work.
In one case, from 2016, they were fined almost $35,000 for one “willful” and two serious safety violations. The willful violation was for a lack of collapse protection, while the two other serious violations were for other trenching hazards.
An OSHA spokesperson said Wednesday that the company never paid the fine, and it was referred to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for debt collection.
In 2019, OSHA cited Atlantic Coast for two serious violations involving trenching safety and employee training. A $7,500 fine was levied, but the company contested the citations and they were later withdrawn.
A 2020 OSHA inspection of the company found no violations.
A person who answered the phone at Atlantic Coast Utilities Wednesday said the owner wasn't there and that he was not authorized to speak.
In 2016 in the South End, two men were killed when a trench they were working in collapsed. The owner of that now-closed company, Atlantic Drain Service, was found criminally responsible for the deaths and sentenced to two years in jail.
This post includes reporting by WBUR's Quincy Walters and Ally Jarmanning, and The Associated Press.
This article was originally published on February 24, 2021.