By John Lynds
The sister of the East Boston woman crushed to death on New Year’s Eve 2013 while crossing the Meridian Street Bridge has filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Boston.
The lawsuit filed by Mirna Hernandez, the sister of Aura Garcia, says both the city and bridge operator were negligent in the death of her 45-year-old sister two years ago.
Garcia was crushed when she tried to make her way across the bridge on foot from Eastie to Chelsea. The bridge operator, Louis Alfieri Jr., was in the process of opening the drawbridge to allow a boat to go by along the Chelsea Creek. Alfieri lowered the bridge after hearing Garcia’s screams for help. Authorities who investigated the incident believe she was in a blind spot and Alfieri could not see her location.
“The Bridge tender, with deliberate indifference and/or carelessly and negligently operated the Bridge in such a manner that he opened the Bridge without observing if there were any pedestrians on the Bridge prior to opening it in reckless disregard for the safety of the public, which conduct shocks the conscience of a reasonable person,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit also names the contractors that maintain the bridge for failure to provide safety systems like an alarm warning pedestrians the bridge was about to open.
The suit does not specify what damages Garcia’s sister is looking for.
“The heirs at law and next of kin of the decedent are entitled to the fair monetary value of the decedent, including but not limited to compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected net income, services, protections, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent and to the reasonable medical, funeral and burial expenses incurred [per federal law],” the lawsuit reads.
The city’s Public Works Department runs the daily operation of the Meridian Street Bridge and hires bridge operators. Alfieri had been an operator at the Meridian Street Bridge since 1999.
Fromer BPW Commissioner Joanne Massaro said at the time of Garcia’s death that Alfieri had an unblemished record as a bridge operator and always followed the standard safety protocol when raising the bridge that includes a 20-step procedure of signaling a warning horn and traffic lights and conducting visual checks for vehicles and pedestrians.
Witnesses said the bridges safety equipment had been activated, alerting motorists and pedestrians that the bridge was about to be lifted. Once the bridge started to rise witnesses said they heard Garcia’s screams for help before the bridge was lowered.
Bridge operators are required to use the bridge’s safety cameras and zoom in on traffic and foot traffic at the bridge’s two gates on the Eastie and Chelsea side. If vehicles or pedestrians do not move after the alarm is sounded the operator is required to call the police.