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Worker killed after falling nine stories at Boston construction site

Rescue vehicles at the crane accident in Boston Saturday evening.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

A Boston construction worker was killed Saturday evening after a partial collapse of the Government Center parking garage sent him falling several stories in the heart of downtown.

Boston Fire Commissioner John Dempsey said witnesses reported that the victim was using a piece of heavy machinery when the floor “buckled” and the machine fell about nine stories with the man inside. The man was conducting demolition work inside the garage when the floor gave away beneath the vehicle, as it approached the edge of the building, Dempsey said.

A second person was also hospitalized, according to a Boston EMS spokeswoman, who said the victim was “indirectly involved” with the collapse. That person’s condition was unknown.

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In brief comments at the scene Saturday night, Mayor Michelle Wu called the death a “horrible tragedy” and said an investigation into the accident was already underway.

“(The investigation) remains very much active, and the city will work to do whatever it takes so that we understand what happened here,” said Wu, who praised the response of emergency workers.

“This is a very complex site, and the workers who take on the risks of this … their families should never have to worry about whether they’re [coming] home at night.”

The death occurred at around 5:30 Saturday evening, according to a statement from John Moriarty & Associates, the general contractor handling construction on the downtown project known as Bulfinch Crossing.

According to the company, the subcontractors conducting demolition work at the time were evacuated and the site has been temporarily shut down.

“Structural engineers will ensure the site is safe and secure before any work resumes,” said the statement.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to the loved ones of the worker who lost his life.”

Videos posted to social media shortly after the accident showed an extensive emergency response at the scene, including what appeared to be at least five fire trucks and many more police and emergency vehicles.

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The aftermath of the partial collapse at the Government Center garage on Saturday evening.Tim Cappalli

The streets surrounding the Government Center Garage were closed to traffic by 7 p.m. Saturday, as Boston police officers redirected drivers away from the area. Nearby Surface Road was filled with emergency vehicles, including several ambulances and fire trucks.

Dozens of onlookers paused to gaze up at the garage, where a large yellow crane stood over the partially demolished building..

Jonathan Bailey-Francois was on his way to a comedy show downtown when a stream of fire trucks sped past him.

“I heard the sirens and it was like the Boston Marathon bombing again,” he said. “It was just fire truck after fire truck and when you see a ladder truck in the city, it’s never a good thing.”

The construction site is part of a development project known as Bulfinch Crossing, which will add multiple new high- or mid-rise buildings to downtown Boston, according to a website for the project. Spread among 4.8 acres, it was at one time slated to include 800 residential units and more than 1 million square feet of office space.

Earlier this year, however, the Boston Planning & Development Agency approved a redesign request by the HYM Investment Group — the project’s developer — to build a 12-story life sciences building, rather than three office- and residential-related buildings.

Reached Saturday night, a spokeswoman for HYM Investment Group referred questions to Boston officials.

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Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said Saturday that his office — along with other local, state, and federal authorities — would be involved with the investigation.

“Our office is a stone’s throw away from the garage and our staff has watched through their office windows all the work being done these many months,” Hayden said in a statement. “To know that one of the workers on this project has tragically died weighs heavy on our hearts. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.”

Saturday’s death, meanwhile, is the latest in a barrage of construction-related accidents that have accompanied a significant area building boom in recent years.

In 2016, a construction worker was killed following an accident involving a crane in the Longwood Medical area, just two weeks after another worker was seriously injured in a three-story fall from another area construction site. Two years ago, two workers at an Inman Square construction site in Cambridge were rushed to a hospital when the small-lift crane they were operating tipped over.

And last October, a man fell six stories down a stairwell shaft to his death at an East Boston construction site — one of several killed on eastern Massachusetts job sites last year.

Danah Ringel, 29, said she’d walked over to the scene of Saturday’s accident from her North End apartment when she heard sirens and saw the flashing red lights of fire trucks and ambulances parked outside the garage.

She said she was sad to hear the accident resulted in a man’s death and was concerned about the safety of the numerous other building projects happening across the city.

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“Boston is a city that’s constantly under construction and I would hope that by now, you know, OSHA has done their due diligence in making sure that our sites are safe, not only for workers but also for pedestrians in the area,” she said as she stood on the corner of Washington and New Chardon streets, watching as emergency workers walked into and out of the job site.

“Look around at all the new high rises going up,” she added, pointing to the One Congress tower sitting behind the garage. “They have to make sure these are safe ... because when they don’t, tragedies happen like what we’ve seen tonight.”

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Drivers and pedestrians in the area can expect significant closures to traffic, Boston police said. There is no timeframe for when it will reopen to traffic.

Breanne Kovatch of the Globe staff contributed to this story.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico. Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com.