When the call about her brother came, sometime after 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, Leslie Villalobos wasn’t particularly concerned.
She didn’t panic, even when she was told she needed to get to downtown Boston as soon as possible, that there had been some sort of an accident. Her brother, after all, was always getting into fender-benders. Probably a minor car accident, she figured.
When she arrived downtown an hour later, however, she came upon a bustling and chaotic scene. A parade of firetrucks and emergency response vehicles. Strands of yellow police tape.
And she saw a mattress-sized hole in the ground, in the middle of a street lined by sky-high office buildings. Nearby was a large construction truck.
By the time a detective sought her out to tell her that her brother, a construction worker, was still underground, and that authorities wouldn’t immediately be pulling him up, it was clear: This wouldn’t be a rescue mission. It was a recovery.
“Usually if someone’s injured,” she says, “they help right there on the spot.”
Villalobos’s 28-year-old brother, Jordan Romero, and another man were killed Wednesday morning in what appeared to be an accident on a construction site.
Officials said first responders had initially been called to the scene for a report of a person struck by a truck. But when they arrived, they found two men in a hole in the middle of High Street, near the intersection with Purchase Street.
Construction crews had been working in the area; city officials said Atlantic Coast Utilities, a company that works in underground utilities, had been doing an emergency sewer repair for LDJ Development, which lists its address at 190 High St.
Villalobos confirmed that her brother worked for Atlantic Coast Utilities.
Among the firefighters, officers, and crews of hard-hat workers gathered Wednesday morning, the families of both victims stood silently, soaking in their loss.
Accompanied by friends and family, Villalobos, 23, of Lynn, stood by as authorities worked to retrieve her older brother.
She described Romero as “a fun guy, so full of life,” as well as a hard worker.
Romero was 28, the oldest of four siblings. He served as her protector, always quick to offer a ride, to make sure she was fed or got home safely.
“He found his job [to be] like an escape from reality,” said Villalobos. “And he just wanted to work really hard for his kids. . . . He always told me, ‘life is gonna get tough, but you got to push forward, keep going.’ ”
Eventually, he started dating her best friend, who he married just last month, on Jan. 2.
“And now . . .” Villalobos said, her voice trailing off.
As morning turned to afternoon, the once-packed street began to clear. The firetrucks departed, and rescue workers gave way to crime scene investigators.
Villalobos, meanwhile, thought about her final conversation with her brother.
A night earlier, she’d been surprised to find him still awake, online at 3 a.m.
She sent him an instant message: What are you doing up?
What are you doing up? he’d countered.
They chatted only briefly, before he told her to go back to bed.
“Sweet dreams,” he wrote.
Globe correspondent Charlie McKenna contributed to this report.
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.