WESTERLY — The accident that took the life of Angelo Turano outside the town garage on Wednesday occurred when the brakes on a tractor-trailer were released, causing a tire to roll over the senior mechanic and crush his chest.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey was direct and solemn on Thursday afternoon as he released details of the incident that killed the 22-year Westerly employee. Lacey, joined by Town Manager J. Mark Rooney and town leaders, spoke about the accident and what comes next as the town mourned a man who was well known and described as "loved by all."
Lacey said, "We know that the driver had talked with the mechanic to show him what was wrong" with the town-owned truck, which is used to haul trash to the state landfill in Johnston. "Why he was back under there after is a question we are all asking. We may never get that answer."
The incident happened at about 2:15 p.m. After returning to the town garage at the end of his shift, Scott Wells, 57, the driver, notified Turano of a possible problem with the brakes on the cab.
Lacey said a preliminary investigation conducted by the Westerly Police Department's Accident Reconstruction Unit determined that Wells and Turano had discussed the brake problem with a second town driver, Robert Pelchat. The truck was parked outside the garage, just south of the main Department of Public Works building on Larry Hirsch Lane, and the three men were standing at the front end of the trailer.
After deciding that the truck needed to be parked for a day, the police said, Wells returned to the cab while Turano and Pelchat continued to talk. Lacey said Wells released the air brake, which caused the truck to roll approximately 2 feet. Turano, who was positioned between the cab and the trailer, was leaning underneath to see the brakes, the police said, and was knocked over by the trailer's outer front passenger-side tire as it rolled forward.
He was treated on scene by first responders with Westerly Ambulance and taken to Westerly Hospital for advanced treatment, officials said, but was pronounced dead 3:08 p.m.
An autopsy conducted on Thursday by the Rhode Island Center for the Office of Medical Examiners determined that the preliminary cause of death was blunt force trauma to the chest. The body was released to the Gaffney-Dolan Funeral Home late Thursday morning.
A family member who attended Thursday's press conference declined comment. He asked the family be afforded privacy.
Turano, 53, is survived by his wife, Grace, and their three children, Angelo Jr., Adrianna and Jonathan. Turano was born and raised in Westerly, and was known by "anyone in a 3-mile radius of his home," town officials said.
Assistant Public Works Director Peter Chiaradio said Turano was hired in 1996 and worked first as a tractor-trailer driver and later moved to mechanic. He was promoted to senior mechanic about 10 years ago he said.
Lacey and Rooney described Turano as friendly and caring, with the town manager calling Turano the kind of guy "who helped set the temperature" and motivated other employees. He was known for his kind heart and ability to see the good in people, even those he may not have liked, the officials said.
"I doubt there's anyone here can say honestly that they've never spoken a bad word about anyone," said Lacey, who was a classmate of Turano's at Westerly High School. "That was Angelo, though. He was the one of us who never said bad of anyone; just a good person and full of life."
By Thursday morning, news of the incident and who had died had spread far and wide in the community. Several area residents spoke out on Facebook, sharing their condolences and memories of Angelo.
"Just heartbreaking,he was truly loved by all," Deborah Blackwood said in a Facebook post. "My daughter’s close friend’s dad. She loved doing homework over there, he would always feed her and insist that she eat, always smiling. His family was his world, as I’m sure he was theirs. Life is precious, never take it for granted."
Turano was also active in local athletics, supporting youth sports and often bringing smiles to other parents as he watched his children play.
"He was a wonderful man," John Fusaro Jr. said in a Facebook post Wednesday night. "Saw him Sunday. He was my grandson's basketball coach in youth league. It's terrible how life can be taken away from us so fast."
Lacey said the town is nearing completion of the investigation and will then turn over its findings to the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General for review. He said the department would not recommend any charges and firmly said that the incident "was a tragic accident."
David Rodriguez, administrator with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, will be responsible for determining whether any policy or procedural changes would be necessary, Lacey said.
Calling hours at the funeral home for family and friends will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 1 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, followed by a procession, which will include town trucks, to St. Sebastian Cemetery.