Woman crushed by Meridian Street bridge

Boston Police report:

Preliminary investigation indicates the female victim was attempting to cross the bridge on foot when it was raised to allow a vessel to pass. The bridge operator heard what he believed to be calls for help and lowered the bridge in an attempt to help the victim. The victim suffered serious injuries.

The Globe has more details.



    Free tagging: 


    Anger and Sadness

    I live in Chelsea. As soon as I heard about this, my stomach dropped to my stomach, because that woman could have been me. In fact, something like this could have happened to me once, had I not run like hell to the other side of the bridge.

    About two years ago, when I first moved to Chelsea, I was walking to Maverick via Meridian on the western side of the bridge, when suddenly, I sensed movement, and ran like hell to get to the East Boston side. The boons or gates did not go down! And I guess if I had met my demise, no one would care, because clearly I'd be at fault, with my insidious penchant for "walking" and "listening to music."

    When calamities like this occur, I guess the polite thing is to "send prayers" to the family. Well, yes, I do feel very sad for whoever lost their hardworking mother or sister or wife, but I am effin pissed off.

    Adam, your site didn't comment on this, but on December 5th, a Thursday, around 11 PM, the Meridian Street Bridge was effin broken, leaving a huge back up of cars, and a group of pedestrians waiting in the cold for upwards of an hour until the police arrived. And when they did arrive, it was only one cop. The cars, naturally, had found a detour--driving to the Chelsea Street Bridge instead, but for peons like me, who don't drive, well, nothing. It infuriated me because I HAD to call the police, after waiting there for about 40 mins.

    I remember this night well. I was walking home from going out with friends and this soured my evening like you won't believe. I asked the cop, in an agitated by civil tone, whether they could drive a few people across the bridge, since the alternative for most people would be for us to go back to Boston, board the 111, and then get to Chelsea. The officer, badge # 7012 (I think, and yes, I wanted to complaint, because he essentially told me to eff off) said it wasn't his duty to "babysit" us and give us a ride. I replied I thought he was a civil servant and more importantly, an emergency response official. I told him I found it unacceptable that I had to call the police to know what was going on.

    Well, from what I gathered, the bridge broke. It didn't go up or down, it just sorta looked bent. God knows how many hours it was like that for. i got home around 2 that Friday, I guess, and my partner had gone to the bridge to investigate from Chelsea's end earlier.

    What sickens me is that shit like this is just par for the course for the poor denizens of Chelsea. My partner and I can afford to move, if we so chose, but so many other people here lack that mobility. It didn't surprise me I was the first to call 911 after waiting for 30 mins because no one else there wanted to risk deportation calling the police. Someone literally told me that. And the other gent with me had no phone.

    That night, the only other English speaker told me that shit like that had happened before, and that they discovered the operators inside drunk like skunks.

    A sad and sick situation all around. Would it kill them to install motion sensors on the west side? Would it kill anyone if we had advance notice of the ships that needed to have the bridge raised? Whatever the cost, I doubt they'll respond with concern. The globe, your site, no one else covered that night, despite the fact hundreds of people were inconvenienced. And why? Because the affected are mostly recently arrived Hispanic immigrants and poor or just plain poor folks.


    I agree with most of what you wrote

    However, immigrants need to understand that when they call 911, the cops have zero interest I'm their immigration status. More leaders in the immigrant community need to reinforce that message.

    My heart breaks that someone lost a daughter/ sister/mother/friend today. Hug your loved ones extra tight tonight.


    Yes, but

    a lot of immigrants come from a country where the cops are very, very different than the ones in the US. They're incredibly corrupt, and even the innocent have reason to fear them.



    They didn't reveal the identity of the victim so how do you know she's an immigrant? And did no one call 911 in this case? The comment has little to do with this case.

    And as far as immigrants calling 911 - the police may or may not have an interest in your status but if for whatever reason they take your fingerprints it immediately goes to Washington (Justice Department and Homeland Security) whether local law enforcement wants it to or not. (And that goes for everyone, not just "immigrant-looking" people.) If ICE decides they want you detained for whatever reason (you could even be documented) they can call up the local officials and put a detainer on you which effectively keeps you in a cell without charges for officially as much as 72 hours without access to a lawyer or any phone calls and can at times go well beyond 72 hours if they so want it to.

    And that's assuming the best behavior of local law enforcement. If in the unlikely chance a local cop is a dick this could be very bad (and does get very bad -- NH staties are the worst for racial profiling). Even when cops have good intentions there are some very nasty implications. In talking with a local Eastie cop about Secure Communities he told me that they don't use it to target people in the n'hood whom they know to be decent people. But if they know someone is dealing drugs or doing other sorts of nasty shit and they know he is undocumented, they'll stop him for any reason just to get his prints and start that immigration process and get him off the streets. Which sounds great but since when did we start turning patrol officers into Judge Dredd's? This is real life not a comic book and there's a legal system that, yes, frequently sucks (and certainly is broken when it comes to immigration) but putting judge/jury duties into the hands of the police is not a good idea.

    Dialing 911 can open a very messy can of worms for people who are undocumented, have non-resident status or any people that fit that description in their family. (Not to get all in your face about it EG, it's just a pet peeve of mine...police states, that is.)


    I've lived I'm countries ruled by a dictator

    Trust me, there is nothing here that comes even close to living in a police state, where even wearing t-shirt of an opposition candidate can get one stoned to death.

    Now, to get back to the tragic events. A woman lost her life today. A family is in pain. We must remember we are blessed for every day we have.


    a.k.a. Andrew McArdle Bridge

    Here are some more photos of the bridge I took a few years ago:
    The crossing gates on this bridge are substantial making it unlikely for someone to deliberately go around, under or over them. It's a Double-Jacknife Rolling Lift Bascule Bridge with a fairly wide span so pedestrians walking slowly would take quite a while to cross. Moreover, the design of the structural steel trusses obstructs visibility of the walkway, so the operator needs to look very carefully to make sure no one is on the bridge before opening it. Sadly, it appears that didn't happen.


    "Appears" Is Not Certainty

    I didn't say that the bridge operator definitely was at fault, but it's quite apparent that the pedestrian was not seen on the walkway before the bridge was opened. As I explained; the visibility of the walkway is obstructed by the bridge's structural steel, so the design of the bridge itself is a likely a factor in the tragedy.

    Please explain why you think it's "just as likely the woman could be at fault".


    Obstructed visibility

    So, how much would some surveillance cameras in the operator's blind spots cost? How about motion detectors? Not perfect, but it would add to the options that the operator has for checking the span before opening it.

    There is no excuse for "blind spots" for the bridge operator when the technology to eliminate them is so very fucking cheap.

    You should watch the news on TV

    They showed CCTV cameras mounted on the bridge and they said the cops are looking at the video. And the technology is not so very "fucking cheap" unless you are talking about a Logitech camera you can get at BestBuy.


    Thank you for your post. I believe it to be very relevant to this article despite other posters replies. I work in East Boston and drive over that bridge multiple times a day, but do not often get a pedestrians perspective. I have at times seen pedestrians cross the bridge and jump the barriers after the gates have lowered, but obviously that is not the norm. I hope there is a complete investigation into this, and if there is operator negligence (or frequent drunkenness) as you say, they need to be prosecuted. I do believe that drawbridge isn't taken as seriously as it should be by both sides. I have driven over it many times thinking of what a liability/danger it is considering the amount of pedestrian traffic. Thank you for your post.


    Bridge Barrier Jumping?

    Are you saying you've witnessed pedestrians jumping the barrier and then trying to cross the bridge before it opens, or after having already crossed the bridge, jumping over the barrier that may have come down before they reached the other side?

    It's not like a railroad crossing where someone may (foolishly) think they can beat the train. This bridge is a relatively long span that is spooky to walk across under the best of conditions. The thought that it could open up at any moment must surely deter most people from attempting to beat it. I'm not saying it never happens, but it can't happen very often.

    My heart goes out to Mrs. Garcia's family, but I also feel for the bridge operator who will forever be haunted by the accident. The mechanism isn't foolproof; controls can malfunction and human error is always possible because, of course, we are all human. Much responsibility lies with the engineers who created a design that relies on a single person for safety, but doesn't have a clear line-of-sight to all areas that must be protected. As SwirlyGrrl mentioned, modern technology offers many inexpensive measures that could help this. The bureaucratic agencies in control of the bridge are negligent for not employing all simple and practical options to make it as safe as possible.


    Before the bridge goes up, a sound is let off and a gate (for lack of a better word, much like those in parking garage entrances) lowers, one blocking car traffic and one on both pedestrians walk ways. The gates have flashers. It is however easily walked around by pedestrians. Obviously the bridge doesn't go up immediately after these gates lower, and I have seen pedestrians on a few occasions go around the gates and run across the bridge before it goes up so they do not have to wait for it (sometimes the wait for the bridge to go up and down can up to a half hour depending on the size of the ship passing through).

    I do not mean to say that is what happened in this case... I have a feeling that it is operator negligence and or antiquated equipment.

    This day and age for

    This day and age for something like this to happen on a bridge speaks volumes about Boston public works dept. Or who ever is responsible for the bridge, oh 5 years ago bridge operator of that same bridge was intoxicated, shit ..they havent learned their lesson, maybe they should assign 2 Boston patrolmen one that opens the bridge and another directing traffic.And ban all pedestrians from walking across, reason why people walk over bridge is that these people dont want to pay for a bus fare to go over to Eastie, MBTA should lower their fares in poor communities like Eastie and Chelsea!


    A tragedy occurred yesterday,

    A tragedy occurred yesterday, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ms. Garcia.
    The fact is, this does not happen often. Also, the details are still unknown. But, 2 Boston Patrolmen should be assigned to operate and monitor bridge, ban all pedestrian traffic, and lower MBTA fares for "poor" communities like Chelsea an Eastie. There are individuals that are poverty stricken in all communities who would benefit from a reduced fare (who would pay for the difference?) . I'm sure the ONLY reason people use the bridge is to not have to use the MBTA, riiiight. Sounds like you have a lot of solutions for an isolated incident.

    One thing I don't get is why

    One thing I don't get is why the bridge operates on the boats' whim. Why do they have the right of way? Wouldn't it make much more sense to open the bridge at night on a predefined schedule? That would also remove the expense of an operator sitting in there 24/7


    No, I cannot provide a source

    No, I cannot provide a source but this goes back, generally, to "the waterway was there first". Waterways used to be the primary mode of transportation, in order to build the bridges in the first place watercraft were given the right of way.

    As a practical matter the very large ships in e.g. Chelsea are difficult to navigate. Boats filled with drunken partiers going in and out of the Charles River Basin clogging up Monsignor O'Brian highway are another story.

    What an awful story.

    Boston's Bastard Bridges

    Good reference point. Although you never really think much about them in this day and age, bridge infrastructure is a big deal. And like many other things associated with a few hundred years of odd bureaucracy development, there are some quirks that result in Stupid Shit. One of these is the fact that the responsibility for public bridge operations and maintenance can fall on any of three levels of govt - feds, state and municipal (and of course different agencies within those categories as well -- DCR, DOT, etc.). And some entities are just better at it than others.

    The McArdle recently got a bit of a do-over (early 2000s?) so at least it's not structurally deficient, but just the same its operations could be improved (someone once suggested a big beacon of some sort in Central Square that would indicate whether the bridge is up or not so people starting out down Meridian Street would know and could reroute over to Chelsea Street rather than sitting in traffic, which seems like a good idea).

    The North Washington Street Bridge (Charlestown Bridge) is structurally deficient and has not been adequately dealt with. While the DOT wisely invested in the Accelerated Bridge Program to fix up bridges like these around the state, Washington Street didn't qualify because it's the city's problem - and Menino never did anything with it as it was so damned expensive (just think he could have rechristened it the Thomas M. Menino Bridge!). [ Tellingly, shortly after the Occupiers marched down from Dewey Square to the Washington Street Bridge to complain about its sorry state (at the manipulative behest of the Obama Administration-controlled MassUniting), Menino finally broke his tolerant position on the hippies and started cracking down on them -- coincidence? ]

    At any rate, the city doesn't necessarily have the wherewithal to be operating and maintaining bridges (Long Bridge out to Long Island being one that's almost completely gone due to lack of maintenance) that can be critical to the lives of people around here and either the State or the Feds should be picking up the slack before another person gets killed.

    As a balance between marine

    As a balance between marine traffic and road traffic, sometimes a cap is agreed to for an active, navigable waterway - the drawbridge may be raised no more frequently than, say, once an hour. I've lived in shore areas with high demand from pleasure boating traffic - in peak season in that area a bridge would be raised (if needed) a maximum of twice an hour at fixed times (usually top and bottom of the hour).

    I don't believe there's that much demand along Chelsea, but there is a good bit of small to medium tanker traffic there. The physics of bringing a ship of that size to a full stop to wait for a particular timed opening, getting it moving again once there is an opening... The result would be the bridge being raised for longer periods each time, which would be more of a disruption.

    Shifting traffic to nights only? Three observations of possible considerations:

    1. Are you prepared to pay extra for whatever the product is in those tankers? If you're potentially adding 18 hour waiting periods on inbound and outbound traffic - the cost would get passed along.

    2. There is enough traffic along there - let's say at least one boat in or out every hour or two - that to confine it all to the overnight hours would necessitate the bridges being up for long stretches at a time for most of the night. You want to tell everybody on land going to/from third shift work or a pleasure evening that they have to go all the way around by way of Bell Circle?

    3. Sometimes, some places - ships have to factor in the tide. Don't know if it happens here - does happen at Fore River.

    Draw bridge timings

    Case in point: the MBTA draw bridge in to North Station. During non-commute hours, train times are all staggered between :50 past and :15 past so that there is time every hour to raise the bridge. (Apparently it "raises on signal" but I would be they'll keep a boat waiting a few minutes to get trains in and out of the station). However, the bridge is kept down during rush hours when opening it would be quite burdensome to the T, so it's kept down from 6:15 to 9:10 AM and 4:15 to 6:30 PM. The Craigie Bridge generally stays closed at rush hour because traffic would be stalled at the train bridge anyway. Info from here.


    Wrong, Swirly

    From one of the email alerts set out by the Patriot Ledger:

    "The Fore River Bridge is scheduled to open at 9:30 a.m. Friday Dec. 13, to let an oil tanker pass, halting Route 3A traffic for 15 to 45 minutes.
    The exact time of bridge openings is subject to weather and other conditions. Openings occur every few days, usually with little notice. The bridge also makes unannounced openings for outbound tankers, barges and other vessels."


    Not wrong

    The Fore River Bridge is scheduled to open at 9:30 a.m.

    Openings are scheduled. That is what I said. Sure, they do have some that don't make the notifications, but those are pretty rare (and usually in the wee hours).

    My MIL crosses that bridge all the time and alerts us to the lift times when we head to her place.

    You like to have heat in your

    You like to have heat in your home or perhaps gas in your car or maybe even road salt for the upcoming storm? These aren't pleasure boats cruising Chelsea Creek in the middle of winter- they are large tankers delivering fuel etc. to various terminals on the Chelsea Creek and the tug boats that help get them there.

    Why shouldn't her family sue?

    People sue for good reasons. In this case, a woman was killed because somebody didn't see her using the bridge, and her death likely didn't have to happen. There are children to care for and pay for. There may be a spouse that can't make the rent on his or her own. When you live close to the edge already, the loss of an income or the loss of an unpaid caregiver is truly brutal.

    Must be reeeeealy nice to have never been in that situation and not be the least bit able to understand what it is like. Really nice, indeed.


    the sad reality

    is that the City will probably cite Sovereign Immunity. If Boston paid off every time a city employee or politician did something stupid the place would be broke in no time. The Big Dig had a highly insured private contractor in the middle. This doesn't, I'm afraid.

    the sad reality

    is that the City will probably cite Sovereign Immunity. If Boston paid off every time a city employee or politician did something stupid the place would be broke in no time. The Big Dig had a highly insured private contractor in the middle. This doesn't, I'm afraid.

    How exactly does this work?

    How does the bridge opening situation work when someone is say...already walking across the bridge when the operator spots a boat and opts to open it? It looks like a long walk across, so, my sense is it would be easy (and tragic) enough from a pedestrian(s) to be en route across the bridge at some point when all of a sudden the "do not cross" mechanism is started. It seems very unsafe - a disaster waiting to happen - for the whole safety of this situation to depend on a live human operator to be able to "scan" the bridge to be sure no one is in the process of crossing before engaging the "open bridge" option.

    Unless I'm missing something; perhaps I don't understand exactly how this works. But is that the case? Someone could easily be actually crossing the bridge (unseen; unrecognized; simply missed by human error or ignorance or error) when this same operator opens it?

    Very tragic, and very sad. Some day in the future, people will look back and and say, "Wow, I can't believe back in the day the subway platforms where left open like that for people to easily fall or be pushed on to the tracks", and "I can't believe a bridge worked that way, how ignorant and unsafe", similar to the way we are awe-struck and repulsed at the way children were locked to factory machinery so they wouldn't fall asleep or run away during their 12 hour factory days.

    Just my two cents.

    I hope a good lawyer has contacted the family.


    Reading comprehension failure

    If you carefully read the third paragraph of Annie's comment that I responded to, you will see that she is the one going off topic. She hoped unsafe bridges might be a thing of the past some day like child labor, workers locked in factories, and open subway pits. High visibility outerwear is just another one of those safety measure that should be taken for granted, especially considering how little it costs compared to other safety measures. I did not imply that it would have helped in this situation, just that its a good thing in general. You really should give up your hobby of attacking people for the new year.