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The family of First Night worker killed Saturday remembers him as a strong and kind man

Brandon McSweeney.FAMILY PHOTO

A worker killed in Copley Square on Saturday during setup for Boston’s First Night celebration was remembered by family and friends Sunday as a creative and skilled craftsman who gave of himself as easily to strangers as to loved ones.

Brandon J. McSweeney, 34, of Sherborn, was killed when a 3,500-pound ballast fell onto him at about 9:45 a.m. Saturday as he worked to set up the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration. The ballast was to serve as the base for a light tower.

“He was a good-natured man of quiet strength, solid intelligence, and perpetual kindness,” his family wrote in a statement that was distributed by an attorney Sunday on their behalf. “His loving presence will sorely be missed by family, friends, and co-workers alike.”


McSweeney’s parents, Jay and Sheryl McSweeney, and his siblings, Russell, Jayson, and Emily, described him as a loving son and a loyal brother. They said they planned to set up a Brandon J. McSweeney Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Jon Sharpe, president of United Staging & Rigging, McSweeney’s employer, said in a statement Saturday that his staff was “devastated by [the] tragic accident.”

“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,” Sharpe said.

He said, “Our focus and prayers are with our employee, his family, and co-workers.”

Richard Wood, co-founder of the Waltham-based project management, design, and construction firm Wooden Kiwi Productions, said he had known McSweeney for more than a decade through his work for Wooden Kiwi and for United Staging & Rigging.

“I’m devastated by the news about Brandon,” Wood said in a phone interview. “He was a wonderful person. I would have trusted him with my life. I think the whole Boston theater community is taking a step back and appreciating Brandon and appreciating the work that he did. He was always safety conscious; he was always responsible. He was a great person to work with.”


McSweeney graduated from Dover-Sherborn High School in 2004, according to his Facebook page. He briefly attended the University of New Hampshire, where he studied chemical engineering, and then worked a series of jobs on the technical side of theatrical productions.

Brian Liberge, a friend and former roommate, tweeted Sunday afternoon that McSweeney was caring and generous, always wanting his friends “to be happy and to be comfortable.”

Liberge recalled that McSweeney once used his skills to build a table that his friends would gather around to play games.

“He cared about thoughts. He respected prayers. And when you’ve had time for those, he watched to see what you did with your actions,” Liberge wrote. “He was the friend that picked up a stranger in a blizzard who didn’t even have their thumb out.”

Spencer Keith, an acquaintance, said he met McSweeney at a social gathering, where he was “the nicest person at the party.”

In a Facebook message to a Globe reporter, Keith added that McSweeney was “super easy to talk to, funny, loving,” and generous.

“I could tell his heart was huge,” Keith said.

A Boston police spokeswoman said Sunday that no further information about the death was available. A spokeswoman for Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said prosecutors from her office and representatives from OSHA were at the scene Saturday.


In Copley Square Sunday, just 24 hours after McSweeney’s death, contractors were back on the job after suspending work Saturday. At least a couple of dozen people from a variety of moving, construction, and lighting companies could be seen hanging lights, securing wires, and assembling metal barriers.

Several First Night workers in Copley Square said they hadn’t been working Saturday and hadn’t heard about the incident.

Across the street, at Clover Food Lab, manager Scott Higgins said he was working Saturday morning and that the first responders, ambulances, and police barriers caught his attention.

“They fenced off the whole Copley Square,” said Higgins, 26, who added that he had first assumed it was a false alarm.

“It’s definitely not the joyous news that you’re used to hearing this time of year,” he said. “That’s horrible, and I feel really bad for the family, and obviously for the other workers that must feel nervous coming back to work today. That could be anyone.”

Felicia Gans can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached Follow him on Twitter @JeremyCFox.