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City defends drawbridge operator in deadly Meridian Street accident

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The operator at the controls of the Meridian Street drawbridge at the time of a grisly fatal accident Tuesday has an excellent record of following detailed standard safety protocols when raising the bridge, a city official said Thursday.

“He’s a good employee,” said Joanne Massaro, commissioner of the city’s Public Works Department, which runs the bridge. “He’s had no incidents.’’

“I think he did all he thought he could do to make sure it was a safe opening,” she said.

The operator, Louis Alfieri Jr., a 34-year employee of the city, has consistently adhered to a 20-step procedure that includes activating a warning horn and traffic lights and conducting visual checks for vehicles and pedestrians.

On Tuesday, he raised the bridge to allow a boat to pass on the Chelsea River. An East Boston woman, Aura Garcia, who officials said was on the bridge, apparently fell and was crushed to death when the operator lowered it again after hearing her screams. A witness said she heard a loud foghorn and saw flashing lights before the bridge began to rise.

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