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Commercial driver from Westfield killed while delivering granite for Seaport landscaping project

Emergency responders investigated the scene of a construction accident on Northern Avenue in the Seaport District of Boston on Thursday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A commercial driver from Westfield was killed Thursday morning in the Seaport after being crushed by granite being removed from his delivery truck for a landscaping project on Northern Avenue, according to officials and the man’s family.

James Chaffee Jr., 38, drove the granite into Boston from Springfield, where he worked for a commercial trucking company, said his father, Jim Chaffee Sr., who called his son his “best friend.”

“He was a very caring person, husband, and father,” said Chaffee Sr., 70. “He would have given you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it. He was just very conscientious in the way he went about life.”

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Shortly after 5:30 a.m., Boston police were called to 65 Northern Ave., a parking lot being used to store materials for landscaping work in the neighborhood, officials said. Chaffee was pronounced dead at the scene.

The granite slabs fell on Chaffee as they were being removed from the truck with a forklift, said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden.

“The curbstones became disengaged from the forklift and fell on the victim,” he said. Another person was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

An independent landscaping company was working on the project, which involved planting new trees and re-curbing the sidewalk along Northern Avenue. After the accident, investigators placed bright green evidence markers on granite slabs piled next to the flatbed trailer that had carried the stone to Boston.

Chaffee is the 15th person to die on the job in Massachusetts so far this year, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it was investigating the death but didn’t release further details.

In a statement, Mayor Michelle Wu offered condolences to Chaffee’s family.

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“Every person deserves to be safe when they show up to work. My heart is with the victim’s family and coworkers as they mourn the loss of their loved one,” she said.

City Council president Ed Flynn urged the city to investigate the fatal incident.

“One tragedy is too many,” he said in a statement. “We must redouble our efforts and have strict measures in place to ensure the safety of our workers, neighbors, and pedestrians.”

The worksite is owned by an affiliate of WS Development in Chestnut Hill, records show. The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Voyage was located there for many years until 2017, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston sold the property.

“We are unimaginably saddened for the victim and his loved ones,” WS Development said in a statement.

The site is surrounded by a number of construction projects. Work is well underway at a luxury waterfront condominium tower, dubbed The St. Regis Residences Boston at 150 Seaport Blvd. The future headquarters for a biotech firm, Foundation Medicine, is under construction at 400 Summer St., as is a 17-story office and lab building at 10 World Trade Center Ave. A major redevelopment of the Seaport World Trade Center is also underway.

Springfield-based insurance giant MassMutual in November opened a Boston office at 10 Fan Pier Blvd., while developers and politicians last week celebrated Amazon.com Inc.’s newest Seaport office at 111 Harbor Way.

The accident is the latest in a series of recent work-related deaths and serious injuries at job sites in and around Boston in recent months.

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On Wednesday, a security worker from Revere was killed in an overnight fall at The Country Club in Brookline. Last month, a worker was hospitalized after falling roughly 30 feet at a construction site in the South End.

Also in early May, a catwalk collapsed on three workers at a construction site at the old Edison plant in South Boston. The collapse was nearly fatal; it took a rescue team more than three hours to extricate one worker from the rubble.

In March, a construction worker plummeted nine stories to his death when a portion of the Government Center parking garage collapsed. Construction workers also died on the job at an East Boston apartment building in October and at a Newton home in May 2021.

Chaffee said his son’s death “blew me out of the water.”

“He was very safety conscious,” his father said. “He was proud of his driving record ... At one of the companies he worked for a few years back, he won a ‘truck rodeo’ over a couple of guys that had 25, 30 years in the company. He knew what he was doing when he was behind the wheel.”

Known as Jim, Chaffee Jr. grew up in Southwick and went to high school at Westfield Technical Academy, his father said. He had a wife, Kristen, and two stepchildren. He worked as a commercial driver for about 20 years.

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The elder Chaffee said his son had three older sisters and grew up in a “very loving household.”

“We were close, all of us,” Chaffee Sr. said. “I used to joke with everybody that I got three queens off the top of the deck before I got a joker.”

Chaffee Jr. enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing, playing horseshoes, and family picnics, his father said. He became close with his stepson and stepdaughter sharing his love of Nascar racing.

“He loved life,” his father said. “He’s going to be missed terribly by all.”

Globe correspondents Matt Yan and Grace Gilson and Catherine Carlock, Emily Sweeney, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.




Locator map of workplace accidents.Christina Prignano


Emergency responders investigated the scene of a fatal worker accident on Northern Avenue.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff





Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her @lauracrimaldi. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.