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Construction worker killed in accident while helping set up First Night

A First Night worker died Saturday morning while helping construct a light tower near Copley Square when a 3,500-pound ballast fell from a forklift and landed on the man’s chest, officials said.

The man was an employee of United Staging & Rigging, one of the companies assisting with First Night setup, said company president Jon Sharpe. He was in his 20s, according to Boston police.

“We are devastated by today’s tragic accident,” Sharpe wrote in a statement. “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority and we are working with the Boston Police and OSHA to determine how this could have happened. . . . Tonight, our focus and prayers are with our employee, his family and co-workers.”

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After the accident, crews suspended their work for the rest of the day, according to a statement from a spokesman for Conventures Inc., an events agency that has run the annual New Year’s Eve celebration since 2015.

“We are deeply saddened by the occurrence and are sending our prayers to the family of the worker,” said the spokesman for Conventures.

The spokesman did not release any additional information.

Boston police officers were called to the area of 560 Boylston St. at about 9:47 a.m. Saturday after a report of a “trauma” involving a head injury, said Officer Kim Tavares, a department spokeswoman.

According to the United Staging & Rigging statement, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The ballast was a base for the light tower, said a spokeswoman for the company.

The death is under investigation by the Suffolk district attorney’s office, the Boston Police Department, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the death a “tragic incident.”

“My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim in Copley Square this afternoon,” he said in a statement.

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First Night Boston, now in its 44th year, is a daylong event hosted at eight venues throughout Copley Square and Back Bay. The festivities start at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, with more than 12 hours of activities, including musical performances, puppet shows, ice sculptures, and a countdown to midnight.

The new year will be celebrated at midnight with pyrotechnics at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel and over Boston Harbor. An earlier fireworks performance will be held at 7 p.m. on the Boston Common, following the “people’s procession” from Copley Square to the Common.

More than 200,000 people are expected to attend First Night this year.

On Saturday afternoon, no construction workers could be seen in the Copley Square area as crowds of people walked by trailers holding production equipment and holiday decorations.

Jim Mercer, of Boston, who was waiting for a bus along Dartmouth Street, was shocked to hear of the death.

“I always come to First Night,” he said. “I’ve been coming since I was 17. I never heard of any injuries like that.”

Chris Abell, 33, who was walking through the square, said the news was awful to hear.

“I think we take for granted how great and festive the city looks, and there’s actual work — sometimes dangerous work — that goes into it,” he said. “It’s terrible that someone had to die.”

A woman who asked to be identified by just her first name, Eleanor, was walking near the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel late Saturday afternoon and said she was visiting Boston from Bristol, England. She had seen construction crews working in the area earlier that day, she said.

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“They’ve obviously been working really hard for people to have a good time,” she said. “It’s really sad.”


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans. Abigail Feldman can be reached at abigail.feldman@globe.com.