WESTERLY — A Public Works Department employee died Wednesday after suffering serious injuries in an accident involving a tractor-trailer truck at the town garage on Larry Hirsch Lane, officials said.

Police, fire and medical personnel were called to the garage in following reports of the accident at 2:20 p.m. Police Chief Shawn Lacey said that the emergency workers arrived at 2:26 p.m. and took the victim, a man, to Westerly Hospital, for treatment. The worker, who was not identified, was pronounced dead a short time later, emergency officials said.

Town Council President Christopher Duhamel said Town Manager Mark Rooney notified members of the Town Council late Wednesday afternoon, though details of the incident were not included in the briefing. He said the victim was “well-liked” in the community and that many officials and town staff were struggling to digest the news.

“The councilors I’ve spoken with are very upset by this. Our heads are spinning right now,” Duhamel said. “He was very popular, loved by everyone.”

Duhamel said that immediately after the incident, Rooney instructed Lacey to open a full investigation.

Lacey said the police department’s accident reconstruction unit went to the scene and began its  investigation.

As of 5:45 p.m., police had cordoned off an area around the garage, which is located on the southern side of the Westerly Department of Public Works complex at 35 Larry Hirsch Lane. Investigators were working from the Westerly Police Department’s Mobile Command Unit, collecting evidence from the scene and using photo-image technology to recreate the scene.

An officer was also stationed at the entrance to Larry Hirsch Lane, monitoring traffic and preserving the scene. The road was closed to the public.

Duhamel said the news broke to councilors about 4:30 p.m. Lacey was asked to notify members of the worker’s family and discuss the incident with them.

A School Building Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday night was canceled to allow town residents and staff members to grieve.

Rooney also arranged for a grief counselor to be present Thursday to assist the town staff in dealing with the loss, Duhamel said. He said staff members have been asked to meet with the counselor to start the day, and they then will be allowed to meet with co-workers in smaller groups or to go home.

“It’s a terrible loss and there are many who are upset. They need a chance to grieve,” Duhamel said.

Rooney could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.


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