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Long-time Natick DPW employee killed in ‘freak accident’; co-worker injured

A long-time Natick town employee was killed and a second town employee was injured Tuesday night while both were participating in the emergency repair of a water line, an incident that was witnessed by four co-workers and a Natick police officer on a paid detail, officials said.

Natick Town Administrator Martha White said the deceased employee worked for the town’s Department of Public Works for 26 years. Town officials identified him as Michael F. McDaniel Jr., a married father of a nine-year-old girl. McDaniel started his career as a laborer and held the top union job of general foreman at the time of his death.

Town officials identified the second worker as Scott M. Spurling, a DPW foreman who was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where his condition has been upgraded to stable.

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White said the incident took place around 7:15 p.m. when six members of the town DPW went to repair a water line break on West Street near the intersection with Redman Drive. She said the crew was working in the street, which led to the deployment of the paid detail.

White said the incident is under investigation by the State and Natick police and the state workplace safety agency. She declined to describe how McDaniel was killed, except to say that it involved equipment being used by the DPW workers.

“It was a routine undertaking,’’ White said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It was a freak accident that resulted in the death of one of our employees.”

In a statement, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office, which is also investigating, said “a backhoe was accidentally pulled forward, and the stabilizer of the backhoe struck two employees who were working in a trench,” fatally injuring the 48-year-old McDaniel.

The fatal incident was followed by Wednesday’s snow storm, and White said that DPW workers who were at the scene were allowed to stay home, an offer most of the workers accepted.

But the rest of the 50-person department had to return to work, supplemented by at least two Natick firefighters and snowplow drivers from surrounding communities sent to help the grief-stricken DPW workers.

“We are just really grateful for the outpouring of support,’’ White said.

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