Southbridge storm victim remembered as a ‘great guy’

SOUTHBRIDGE – The state’s only reported storm-related fatality was a veteran public works employee here, a single father, and a man well-liked by friends and neighbors.

Richard V. Gorgone, 52, was electrocuted at his home this morning when he touched a front-porch railing that had been electrified when a power line, stressed by a fallen tree, snapped off a utility pole and landed on the roof of the two-story building, authorities said.

The line appears to have electrified the building’s aluminum rain gutters, downspouts, and aluminum-trim railing on the porch, according to a State Police investigation.

Gorgone, whom neighbors said has two children, was discovered on the porch by his girlfriend about 5:30 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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“It’s been a terrible day,’’ said a man who described himself as Gorgone’s future son-in-law. Gorgone’s daughter, who accompanied the man outside the home, declined to answer questions.

Ken Lesniewski, a letter carrier who delivered Gorgone’s mail this afternoon, described the victim as a ’’great guy.’’ Lesniewski said he had known Gorgone for about 25 years, watched his children grow from toddlers, and chatted with him almost every day.

“I just talked to him Saturday,’’ Lesniewski said, shaking his head.

Gorgone had worked as a jack-of-all-trades with the town public works department since 2000, according to Town Manager Christopher Clark. The 17-member department, which was offered grief counseling today, is a close-knit group, Clark said.

“It’s certainly too young to go,’’ said Clark, who added that Gorgone had spoken with him on a personnel issue about six weeks ago. “He was a single dad trying to make his way in the world.’’

Clark said Southbridge, which had been one of the last communities hit by the tornadoes in June, experienced tree damage and power outages during Irene. However, damage in the town was not extensive.

“This is a bit surreal,’’ Clark said of Gorgone’s death. “It’s not what we want to be on the map for.’’

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Barbara Jernigan, whose property abuts the victim’s, said Gorgone “always had a smile. He would sit in his driveway and wave at you.’’

Gorgone also was a reliable harbinger of the end of winter. “You could always tell when spring was coming because he would put his flowers out,’’ Jernigan said.

“This is such a freak thing. Who would think?’’ Jernigan said. Power in the neighborhood was lost about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, she said, and still had not returned at her home by late afternoon yesterday.

Mary Trifone, a neighbor, said she was shocked by the death of a man whom she described as “a good worker’’ and had known about 30 years.

“It’s so sad,’’ Trifone said. “It’s so unusual.’’

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