East Boston residents are rallying around the woman killed New Year’s Eve day during a tragic accident on the Meridian Street Bridge.
Aura Garcia was crushed to death 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 investigating the incident believe she was in a blind spot and Alfieri could not see her location.
Eastie residents have set up an online fundraising campaign assist Garcia’s 16-year-old daughter, Nancy, and 4-year-old son, Daniel with food, clothing and other basic essentials. Eagle Hill resident and Eagle Hill Civic Association member Blythe Berents started the campaign.
So far residents have raised over $3,000 for Garcia’s family.
The Ruggiero Family Memorial Home offered its services to the Garcia family for the wake and funeral that will be held Thursday with a funeral Friday morning. The city offered a grave at the city-run Fairview Cemetery.
“We worked with the city to provide the family with a full funeral service in accordance with the family’s wishes,” said Joseph Ruggiero.
Representative Carlo Basile said he plans to hold some type of fundraiser for the family and called the accident a ‘terrible tragedy”.
“My heart breaks for Nancy and Daniel,” said Basile. “This is a terrible tragedy that makes it all the more heartbreaking given its timing after the Holiday Season. I’m looking at ways we can further help the Garcia family in this time of grief. When we have further details of how we plan to raise funds for the family I will let the community know.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina also called the accident terrible and while he did not know Alfieri or Garcia his thoughts and prayers are with both families.
“By all accounts she was a hardworking and loving mother,” said LaMattina. “Mr. Alfieri has had a 34-year stellar career with the city and I understand he is devastated by the accident.”
Senator Anthony Petruccelli has also offered to help the family in any way he can.
“I will work with my colleagues to ensure the Garcia family gets the help they need,” said Petruccelli. “Residents all over East Boston have stepped up and have come together and it’s a very touching thing to see a community rally around the Garcia family.”
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.
According to BPW Commissioner Joanne Massaro, 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.
Investigators are still determining what exactly went wrong on the frigid New Year’s night and have collected and viewed the bridge’s video surveillance cameras for clues.
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 bridges 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.