State investigates worker's death on VTel project
January 15, 2002

(from the Southern Vermont section)

By DONNA MOXLEY Southern Vermont Bureau

CHESTER — A Wallingford man died of head trauma last week after an accident while he was working on telephone lines on Flamstead Road.

Lawrence "Choppers" Balestra, 39, of Wallingford, worked for LMS Construction (Lambert, Manning and Smith) of Wallingford, a company VTel had contracted with to work on a project.

The incident, considered a workplace death, is being investigated by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to Manager Robert McLeod.

"We're just beginning our investigation," McLeod said Tuesday. "We're talking with people who were there on the site, and with the owners (of LMS), so it's very preliminary."

Chester Police Chief Shane Harris said his department assisted in the response to the accident, which occurred while Balestra was in the bucket of a line truck.

The department notified VOSHA, Harris said.

An LMS company official declined to discuss exactly how the accident had happened.

"We're having a really rough time right now," he said.

Balestra's brother Levi still works with the company.

Norm Koch, the vice president of network operations at VTel, said the accident was "unfortunate," but would offer few details.

"We're working with authorities that were doing the investigation," Koch said. "It was a very unfortunate accident by a contractor working on a project of ours."

Balestra's mother, Laura Balestra, said Tuesday that the family had been able to donate a number of her son's organs before he was pronounced dead early Friday morning at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where he was taken after initially being transported to Springfield Hospital.

"It makes it easier to know that there may be a little bit of Eddie out there still," she said.