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Open manhole causes two accidents

Tires damaged on Brighton road

The Nonantum Road manhole was fixed after two accidents. The Nonantum Road manhole was fixed after two accidents. (GEORGE RIZER/GLOBE STAFF)

Two cars blew out tires when they rode over an open manhole on Nonantum Road in Brighton yesterday, the latest in a series of accidents caused by loose manhole covers and storm grates on Massachusetts roadways.

No one was injured in the accidents, which occurred minutes apart shortly after 8 a.m., State Police said. After the accidents, work crews sent by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation replaced the cover and welded it to its socket, said Wendy Fox, a department spokeswoman. She said the manhole, located near Brooks Street, is the property of the MBTA.

"Our people will be on the lookout, as are all state people now for any other kinds of problems like this," Fox said. "But we're hoping this is an isolated thing."

Loose storm grates and manhole covers have caused seven accidents in as many days, scaring some drivers and prompting the state to inspect the approximately 10,000 storm grates and manholes on major highways.

The most serious accident occurred Friday when a tractor-trailer dislodged a 250-pound cast-iron storm grate on Route 128 in Westwood and sent it crashing through the windshield of a car, critically injuring driver Pawel Swierczynski, 39, of North Easton.

Officials have not determined what caused the grate to come loose.

It was one of 24 that had recently been welded shut after drivers reported a series of loose manholes covers in a construction zone on the highway.

"I can tell you that the investigation is ongoing," Governor Deval Patrick told reporters yesterday. "We've been in nearly constant, perpetual contact with the contractor out on 128 in particular."

Patrick said that highway officials have a hot line and that the state welcomes tips. Anyone who sees a loose grate or manhole cover should call 888-359-9595.

Stephanie Ebbert of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.

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