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State Department of Labor investigating Preston first selectman's accident

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published May 28. 2013 5:00PM   Updated May 29. 2013 12:03AM

Preston — The state Department of Labor is investigating the May 16 accident in which First Selectman Robert Congdon was struck by a tree limb on River Road after he had finished cutting up fallen branches that had partially blocked the road.

A neighbor discovered Congdon injured and bloodied in the road and called 911. Congdon, who is also the town public works director, was transported by ambulance to The William W. Backus Hospital, then taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital with several broken ribs, a head laceration and internal bleeding in his shoulder.

Nancy Steffens, director of communications for the state Department of Labor, said the investigation by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health is routine when there is a labor accident involving a public sector employee. She said the investigation could take two to three weeks.

Congdon, who returned to work full-time Tuesday, said investigators from the division, called Conn-OSHA, came to town last week and interviewed him and others involved in the response.

"I couldn't tell them anything," said Congdon, who said he doesn't remember what happened after hearing a loud crack. Congdon said he was wearing a hard hat when he was cutting the branches in the road but took it off when he was finished cutting. That's when the tree limb struck him.

Congdon said his accident should lead town officials to consider new policies involving work crews, especially a rule that no one works alone. Congdon said he did notify others that he would be cutting the branches on River Road, but said if the neighbor hadn't come out to check on him, he could have by lying in the road injured until a vehicle happened by on the quiet, rural road.

"I think it will lead to changes in town," Congdon said. "Going out with one person, no matter how routine, needs to be reconsidered."

c.bessette@theday.com

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