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Construction worker killed in concrete wall collapse at Newton home under renovation

Crews conducted a trench rescue Thursday morning after a wall collapsed on a worker in Newton.
Crews conducted a trench rescue Thursday morning after a wall collapsed on a worker in Newton.NBC10 Boston

NEWTON — A 55-year-old construction worker was fatally injured Thursday when a concrete wall fell on him while he was working in the foundation of a house undergoing renovation in Newton Highlands, making him at least the fourth person killed on an Eastern Massachusetts job site since February, according to officials.

The man, whose name was not released, was working for M. DiStasio Inc. of North Reading, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office.

Newton Fire Chief Gino Lucchetti told reporters the department got a 911 call around 7:58 a.m. and responded to the home on Winchester Street, where work was underway in the rear of the property.

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The worker was underneath a concrete wall in the backyard, the chief said, and it was not initially clear whether he had survived, so the firefighters “went into rescue mode,” hoping to save his life.

“We started our rescue operations and into our rescue operations we realized at a certain time that the person under the wall was not viable, and it turned into a recovery operation,” Lucchetti said. “At this time, [police] and the DA’s office are doing an active investigation into the cause and origin of the situation.”

A neighbor, Eric Guo, said his security camera captured video footage of a man rushing out from the backyard, grabbing a shovel from the red pickup truck parked in front of the house, and then returning to the backyard with the shovel in his hand.

“He seemed like very nervous,” Guo said.

Guo said he couldn’t see what happened in his neighbor’s backyard and he was sorry to learn that a man had died.

“I’m so sad to hear that,” he said. ”I know that everybody rushed to come and rescue the contractor.”

Video from across the street of Newton Highlands home
A man is seen rushing out of the backyard of Newton Highlands home where a worker was killed when a concrete wall fell on him. (Security footage courtesy of Eric Guo)

According to city records, the single-family home was undergoing major renovations, including adding an attached two-story addition to the rear and an attached garage with deck, and creating a first-floor master suite.

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A red pickup truck with the construction company’s name was parked in front of the home Thursday. M. Distasio Inc., which is described as an excavation and utility company on its Facebook page, did not return a telephone call Thursday.

The company did not have any workplace safety complaints, according to the online database maintained by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is participating in the Winchester Street investigation, officials said.

Ryan’s office said in a statement that the man was “working in the foundation of a Newton residence when a wall collapsed, pinning him into the ground.”

The recovery operation, which involved first shoring up the concrete wall to protect the victim and firefighters from a second collapse, was completed around 11 a.m.

The state medical examiner’s office removed the victim.

No other injuries were reported, Lucchetti said.

The chief said the death had an impact on responding firefighters.

“It’s very difficult, very difficult. It’s long, it’s tedious. Your mind is on the tactic of the time,” he said. “It’s afterwards that we think about it.”

Three other men have died on construction sites in Eastern Massachusetts this year.

In Cambridge on March 3, a section of concrete stairwell inside a city-owned parking garage collapsed during renovation work, killing 56-year-old Christopher Stuck of South Windsor, Conn.

In Boston on Feb. 24, Jordan Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, working for Atlantic Coast Utilities on High Street, were killed when they were hit by a truck and knocked into a trench that had been opened to repair a private sewer line, the Globe has reported.

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The Boston fatalities are under investigation by Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office and Boston police. The Globe has reported that company owner Laurence M. Moloney has a lengthy history of workplace infractions and legal disputes, among them citations by OSHA.

First responders on the scene of a construction site death in Newton, where a concrete wall fell on a worker at the site of a house on Winchester Street.
First responders on the scene of a construction site death in Newton, where a concrete wall fell on a worker at the site of a house on Winchester Street.Josh Reynolds/For the Boston Globe

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.