‘Two workers are drowning in that water’

Former Boston Globe music critic James Reed was walking through the South End Friday when a water line broke, triggering a flood that claimed the lives of two workers in a trench on Dartmouth Street. Reed sent along this account of 10 minutes on Dartmouth Street.

I had just gotten my hair cut when I stepped onto Tremont Street and noticed a river of muddy water surging down the street. Just a water line break, I thought.

But the water kept coming, enough so that I texted my hair stylist to say she might want to move her car if it were parked nearby.


When I rounded the corner of Dartmouth and Tremont streets, clearly something was wrong. Water was gushing through Dartmouth like a ride at an amusement park. Onlookers were frozen with stricken faces, some taking photos and videos.

One woman was covering her mouth as a stranger told her what had happened.

“Two workers are drowning in that water,” he said. “They pulled one guy out, but there are two more down there.”

Suddenly, sirens were in surround sound as more and more police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks roared down Tremont Street from all directions.

Emergency workers were stony-faced as they sprinted through the rising water.

A construction worker, his arms flailing, was frantically directing a backhoe operator to lift the metal lid that, presumably, was a manhole.

Yellow police tape started getting wrapped around street signs, with officers ordering spectators to step away from the action.

This all happened within 10 minutes.