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One Dead, One Hurt In Fall At Haverhill Bridge Construction Project

HAVERHILL (CBS) -- One person was killed and another was seriously hurt in an accident at a bridge construction project in Haverhill Wednesday morning. It happened at a bridge on Interstate 495 at Bank Road in Haverhill just before 10 a.m.

"I'm just looking out to see what happened. It's bad news so not a good thing this time of year," said Haverhill resident Harry Taylor.

For reasons still under investigation, the two workers fell from the bucket of a lift truck as they were working on a bridge over the Merrimack River, according to Massachusetts State Police. They said the workers fell approximately 40 to 50 feet onto a barge below.

One of the men, 44-year old Dennis Robertson of Manchester, died in the accident. The other worker - a 46-year-old man - was rushed to a Burlington hospital on a medical rescue helicopter with serious injuries. He underwent surgery.

Dennis Robertson
Dennis Robertson (WBZ-TV)

Roberston had two adult children and two children under the age of four.

"He was looking forward to the long weekend and just spending it with family," said Pastor Jim Roberston, the victim's brother. "When people work construction they come home most every night, so an accident seems so far away from you."

Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the bridge project will be shut down for several weeks during the investigation.

"Again, this is obviously a very tragic and difficult situation. This project is a $110 million project to replace the bridge that carries 495 over the Merrimack River. It's currently a three-year project we're about a year into and has been incident-free to date," Gulliver said. "There are investigators here on the site right now and our contractor is fully committed to cooperating with investigators to make sure that we do get to a point in the investigation we understand fully what happened."

A spokesperson for SPS New England, the construction contractor for the project, told WBZ-TV the two workers were subcontractors from J.R. Vinagro Corporation, of Johnston, R.I.

The scene of a bridge construction accident on a barge in Haverhill that killed one Wednesday morning. (WBZ-TV)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation said in a statement it will cooperate fully with OSHA and other authorities "in determining what occurred to lead to this tragedy."

OSHA sent out a reminder for workers to use fall protection systems and restraints.

The local labor union released a statement Wednesday afternoon: "Every worker has the right to a safe workplace. Local 175 is committed to ensuring that authorities conduct a full and thorough investigation into this incident, and will do everything possible to make certain that the families are fully supported, especially throughout this holiday season."

The $110 million project involves removing and replacing the entire bridge. It began in 2018 and was expected to be completed sometime in 2022.

Jim Roberston said even though Dennis' death hurts, they will celebrate his life.

"This is our worst day but as a Christian who is in heaven eternally with God this is his best day," Robertson said. "We are going to celebrate that."

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