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‘Just terrible, terrible luck’: Woman is in critical condition after being struck by falling railing

Nic Antaya for the Boston Globe

As she walked with her husband and dog near the North End waterfront Thursday morning, a woman was critically injured when a metal railing fell from a rooftop and struck her on the head.

Witnesses said it appeared that a construction guardrail on the roof of 47 Commercial Wharf East was dislodged by a crane lifting a pallet of materials to the top of the five-story building. The woman was knocked to the ground where she lay motionless, witnesses said.

“It didn’t fall in front of her. It didn’t fall behind her,” said Alex Goldfeld, an employee at the nearby Beacon Hill Athletic Club on Atlantic Avenue. “Just terrible, terrible luck.”

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The woman, who is in her 30s, was in critical but stable condition, police said.

Ben Wadsworth, who was having coffee across the street, said the man with the victim called 911 and could be heard crying, “My wife! My wife!” as he described his location to the dispatcher. People nearby rushed to her side and ran into the gym to ask for towels and whether anyone knew first aid, witnesses said.

In a city amid a building boom that has dotted neighborhoods with construction sites big and small, the freak accident stunned many — and raised questions about safety.

Catherine Poisson was in her office on Atlantic Avenue around 8:30 a.m. when she heard sirens. She looked out her window to see a figure in an oxygen mask being placed on a stretcher and into an ambulance.

“It could be anyone,” she said, describing the random nature of the event as “traumatic.” “It wasn’t under the scaffolding. And it wasn’t blocked off. She was just walking. You know, if it was like 20 minutes earlier, it would have been me.”

Many details of the accident were still unclear Thursday evening.

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A spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is investigating the incident, would not confirm what company was working on the roof Thursday. A truck attached to the crane bore the name Corolla Roofing, a Winthrop-based contractor, and city records showed that the same company had applied for a work permit at the building in May.

OSHA records showed that Corolla Contracting Inc. has been cited for eight safety violations since 2010. Five of them were classified as serious.

Four of the violations were related to improperly protecting its employees from falling, records show. The company was also fined $1,700 for a forklift violation in 2013, and $1,000 for inadequate fall protection training in 2017.

In all, the company was fined nearly $39,000, but the penalties were ultimately reduced to $13,100, records show.

A lawyer for Corolla Contracting issued a statement Thursday evening, noting that it was one of two companies at the site.

“Everyone at Corolla Contracting, Inc. is profoundly saddened by today’s accident and send their sympathy to the woman injured and to her family. The company will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation of this tragic accident,’’ the statement said.

Along Atlantic Avenue in the North End, the perimeter of the roof was lined with metal and wooden fencing, while one missing section lay on the sidewalk. Shortly before noon, police took the guardrail away.

Jamie Tipping, owner of Boston Sail Loft, a restaurant next door on Atlantic Avenue, said there had been scaffolding at the building for about a week. He was told earlier this week that the construction would last several weeks.

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“They were setting up as normal” this week, he said.

Goldfeld said the woman sustained injuries to the left side of her face.

“We did what we could until the ambulance came,” he said. “It was a pretty severe accident.”

Later in the day, there was another incident at a construction site when steel beams dropped several stories outside the Hub on Causeway apartment tower being built near TD Garden, according to social media reports. No one was hurt.

The city’s inspectional services department said, “We are actively working with our partner agencies to determine the cause of both incidents that occurred today, and we will use the information learned through those investigations to inform if any actions are needed.

“We are grateful that no one was injured in the incident at the West End construction site and our prayers continue to be with the woman who sustained serious injuries this morning in the North End,” the statement said.

The North End building, a condominium complex with businesses on the first floor, is owned by the Commercial Wharf East Condominium Association, which in a statement said it “is deeply saddened by the accident.”

“The association is fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of this tragic event,” it said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured person and her family during this difficult time.”

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Alett Mekler, who lives two blocks away from the site, said she often passes the building while walking her two dogs on the harbor loop, but had not previously noticed the construction. A friend had texted her Thursday morning to see whether she was OK.

“This is a common dog-walking area,” she said. “It could have been anyone.”

Around 1 p.m., personnel tried to move the crane but wound up hitting another guardrail on the roof, causing it to hang precariously.

“Move my car,” a police officer shouted, “in case this thing goes.”

Police were securing the railing before moving the crane again.


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com. Lauren Fox can be reached at lauren.fox@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bylaurenfox .