Two Westerly DPW employees struck by granite during scheduled blast
Two Westerly Department of Public Works employees are recovering after being hit with a piece of granite.
Town officials said it happened Wednesday morning during a scheduled blast at a nearby quarry on Old Hopkinton Road.
“Their safety system had a failure, to what degree and to what aspect is up to the Rhode Island bomb squad to determine,” said Westerly Interim Town Manager Mark Rooney.
Officials said the two men pulled over to make a phone call when their truck was hit with a piece of granite from the blast, roughly a quarter mile away. Both were sent to the hospital.
"I saw their back window was smashed out and they didn't look too healthy," said Ariel Ternes, who lives near the quarry. “It was almost like a bomb went off."
Rooney said a siren went off before the blast and netting was placed around the area to prevent debris from hitting anyone.
It’s not clear whether the employees were in the area before the road was blocked while the blast was conducted.
“For some reason, the owner of the facility did not see their truck,” Rooney said.
Roofs of nearby buildings were also damaged and struck with rocks.
A representative with Connecticut-based Rawson Materials said the company purchased the quarry earlier in 2018 from Pawcatuck-based Cherenzia Companies.
Rawson said they contracted a Massachusetts-based company to do the blast.
“The blast was precipitated by a sub-contractor hired by the Rawson Materials company called A1 blasting, with a stellar reputation and tremendous amount of experience I’m told,” said Town Council President Edward Morrone.
A1 did not return NBC 10’s requests for comment.
Rooney said all companies had valid permits to blast and will meet with Westerly Town Officials next Tuesday at 9 a.m.
“There will be a complete review of their procedures and processes before they go forward with any blasts,” Rooney said. “And they are doing that cooperatively.”
The U.S. Department of Labor told NBC 10 that OSHA is aware of the incident and is in touch with the company.
The Rhode Island State Police bomb squad and the state fire marshal are investigating.