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Woman injured when North End chimney falls on her

A woman was seriously injured when a chimney fell on top of her while lying on a hammock Tuesday.
A woman was seriously injured when a chimney fell on top of her while lying on a hammock Tuesday. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A 21-year-old woman who was lying on a hammock on the roof of a North End apartment building was seriously injured Tuesday when a chimney fell on top of her, according to Boston Emergency Medical Services.

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the woman and another individual were on a hammock that was supported by a pole on one end and the chimney on the other end when it collapsed. The other person was not injured, MacDonald said.

First responders arrived at the scene on Charter Street around 12:12 a.m. and then needed 45 minutes to extricate her from the debris, place her on a stretcher, and lower her to the ground on a Boston Fire Department ladder truck, officials said.

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William Christopher Jr., commissioner of the city’s Inspectional Services department, said no residents of the complex were displaced, but work will have to be done on the chimney.

“They may choose to rebuild that brick, but that hasn’t been determined yet,” he said.

He said the roof is not intended as a public space.

“This is more about a commonsense approach to being comfortable,” he said.

The woman was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment of what were described by a Boston EMS official as serious injuries. Her condition was not known later Tuesday.

The listed owner of the apartment building could not be reached for comment. It was not clear whether the injured woman lives in the building.

According to city assessing records, the property has multiple units and is currently assessed at $1.9 million.

MacDonald said he could not recall a prior incident of a chimney toppling over at a residence.

But there have been reports of other unfortunate hammock/chimney incidents in other parts of the state. One recent case occurred in May 2017, when a college-aged man was hurt after a hammock pulled down part of a chimney in Amherst. And in 2005, a 19-year-old Lynn man died after he was struck with a cement block while lying in a hammock in Beverly. The hammock had been tied to an old chimney that collapsed when a friend joined him on the hammock.

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Several people in the North End said they were unaware of the dramatic rescue on Charter Street until they heard about it on the news.

Jean Doran owns a condo at the corner of Foster and Commercial streets — just a few doors down from the building where the chimney collapsed. She said she didn’t hear anything unusual during the night, not even a siren. “We didn’t hear a sound,” she said. “I hope she’s OK.”

News of the accident became a topic of conversation at one local coffee shop, where two longtime North End residents talked about how the accident could have been prevented.

“No common sense,” one 76-year-old woman said. “These people come here and do whatever they want.”

When she was younger, people didn’t hang out on roofs, she said.

“It’s all changed now,” she said. “Years ago, we lived here with our parents. . . . You had to do whatever they told you. When we were growing up, we weren’t allowed to go up there.”

Her companion nodded her head in agreement and said hammocks have no place on rooftops — especially in a dense old urban neighborhood like the North End.

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“A hammock belongs in a backyard, tied to a tree,” she said. “If you want a hammock, go buy a house with a backyard.”


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.