Snow plow operator was 'hard working'

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The dead man, who was discovered inside his plow truck around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, was Dennis LaChapelle, 58, of Becket.

Massachusetts Highway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky said LaChapelle, a longtime highway employee, died while attempting to keep the roads clear for Berkshire County residents during the first heavy snowfall of the season.

"It's always sad when we lose a member of the MassHighway family," Paiewonsky said. "It's especially sad that Dennis died in the line of duty."

Paiewonsky described LaChapelle as "a hard-working, well-regarded employee" and offered her "deepest condolences to his family."

He died while plowing a section of Route 41 in Pittsfield. Fellow MassHighway workers found him slumped over the wheel of his truck, which was discovered in a snow-covered field not far from the highway department's Route 41 garage.

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City and state officials said it appeared LaChapelle was stricken by a heart attack or a similar pre-existing health condition, though the exact cause of death has not been identified.

Highway workers attempted to resuscitate their colleague while waiting for firefighters and medics to arrive, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

LaChapelle's death came during a heavy snow event that began Friday and lasted into early Saturday morning. More snow fell on the Berkshires on Sunday, but Monday's forecast featured more wind than snow as high winds gripped the region, causing widespread blowing and drifting.

Today's forecast calls for increasing clouds and snow possible during the overnight hours. By Wednesday morning, Berkshire residents could wake up to freezing rain or snow, according to the National Weather Service in Albany.

No other weather-related fatalities have been reported in the Berkshires since the current weather pattern settled into the region.

To reach Conor Berry: cberry@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6249.


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