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Operators must now walk E. Boston drawbridge before raising it

Aura Garcia, a mother of two, was crushed to death on the Meridian Street Bridge in an accident Dec. 31.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File

Aura Garcia, a mother of two, was crushed to death on the Meridian Street Bridge in an accident Dec. 31.

Operators of the Meridian Street Bridge, the scene of a grisly Dec. 31 accident in which an East Boston woman crossing the stretch was killed while it opened, are now required to walk the bridge to ensure it is free of pedestrians.

The new policy, posted on the bridge house along the span over the Chelsea River, is one additional step in a 20-point process required of the drawbridge operators that includes activating a warning horn and conducting visual checks for vehicles and pedestrians.

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Acting Public Works Commissioner Michael Dennehy said a notice of the new rule is posted clearly and has been initialed by each of the Meridian Street Bridge operators.

“This addition to the rules and procedures was put in place after the tragedy to ensure that something like that never happens again,’’ Dennehy said.

The new procedure was put into action Jan. 9, three days after Mayor Martin J. Walsh took office and a little over a week after Aura Garcia, a 46-year-old mother of two, was killed on the bridge, also known as the Andrew P. McArdle Bridge. The city, responding to Globe inquiries starting shortly after Walsh took office, released information about the rule change this week.

A memo posted at the Meridian Street bridge house instructs operators to “make sure that the bridge is cleared of cars and pedestrians and alert the bridge contractors working on the bridge that you are opening the drawbridge.’’

Another notice orders operators to confirm the bridge is clear by stepping onto the roadway and onto both sidewalks between the barrier gates.

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The new rule will affect only the Meridian Street Bridge, one of four moveable bridges the city operated until recently. On the Northern Avenue Bridge, which spans Fort Point Channel in South Boston, operators will continue as normal. Along that span, bridge tenders must stop pedestrian traffic and lock and unlock two chain-link gates on either side of the bridge before opening it, city officials said.

The two other bridges are now under state control. The Chelsea Street bridge is now owned by the state Department of Transportation after a major construction project. The other, the Alford Street Bridge over the Mystic River, is closed for repairs.

Reached by phone, Garcia’s family members declined to comment. State Representative Carlo P. Basile, who represents East Boston and helped to raise money for Garcia’s children, said he welcomes the new rule.

“I think anything that could improve safety is helpful,’’ said Basile. “Of course this does not bring solace to the young children.”

Boston police believe Garcia was well on her way across the bridge Dec. 31 when it began to open.

Bridge operator Louis Alfieri Jr., a public works employee for 34 years, heard her screams and lowered the bridge.

But she had apparently fallen and was crushed as the bridge was lowered, authorities said.

After the tragedy, former public works commissioner Joanne Massaro defended Alfieri, saying the 60-year-old Hanover resident had an excellent record of following the city’s detailed standard safety protocols when raising the bridge.

“I think he did all he thought he could do to make sure it was a safe opening,” Massaro told the Globe after the accident.

Alfieri, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 888, was not available for comment, a union representative said Thursday.

Boston police are investigating. On the day of Garcia’s death, an inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration went to the scene, but determined that OSHA did not have jurisdiction and did not proceed with an inspection, said Andre J. Bowser, a spokesman.

Drawbridge operators on the Meridian Street Bridge undergo extensive training by Norwell-based contractor BEC Electrical Inc., Massaro said at the time.

Among the 20 steps required before opening the bridge, operators must push the “zoom” button on cameras to get a close view of traffic at the gates, visually check for cars and pedestrians, and again check approaching traffic.

If a driver or pedestrian refuses to move after the alarm sounds indicating the bridge is opening, the drawbridge tender is required to call police to remove them, officials said.

Alfieri was hired by the city in September 1979 and has worked in the bridge division since.

In East Boston, a fund-raising effort aimed at helping Garcia’s 16-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son has stalled.

The effort has raised $16,000, including $7,400 from an event Jan. 23 in East Boston.

The online fund-raiser dubbed “Help the Garcia Kids” sought to provide a financial cushion for the children.

But last week, it took in just $250, said the organizer.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.

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