Big Dig Claims Another Life

March 27, 2003
Just days before the unveiling of part of the most ambitious construction projects undertaken in the United States, an operating engineer was crushed by a pile-driving crane at the site of Boston's Big Dig on March 24.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Lonnie Avant's widow, Jacquelyn Sue, told a reporter Avant had a premonition he would die at the jobsite. The night before his death, he allegedly told his wife he thought the crane was old and was "going to kill me." He also told her, "I just want to get this job done."

Avant, the fourth worker to die on the site, was found trapped between the crane's cab and its treaded tracks at a work site of the $14.9 billion Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel in South Boston. He died less than a week before officials unveiled the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, considered to be the Big Dig's crown jewel.

OSHA, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley and Rev-Lyn Contracting Co. of East Boston, Avant's employer, are investigating. A spokesman for the district attorney's office said there were "no facts to suggest wanton or reckless conduct."

Company officials believe Avant was oiling the crane's turret when the crane operator, who didn't know he was there and happened to be a close friend, started up the crane. Big Dig spokesman Sean O'Neill said the crane operator collapsed at the scene and was taken to the hospital.

O'Neill called Avant "a fine gentleman," said he was "highly, highly liked," and remembered him as "always laughing."

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic fatal accident," Rev-Lyn said in a statement. The company said it would cooperate with the ongoing investigations and added, "Our condolences and prayers go out to the worker's family and friends in this time of grief."

Jacquelyn Sue Avant said her husband was proud to work on the Big Dig project. "He died doing what he loved, he really did," she told the Boston Herald. "I'm very proud of him."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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