World’s End neighbors want safety addressed

Mary Ford

Leon Granahan grew up on World’s End with his brothers and sisters. Although not all the Granahans stayed in Hingham, Leon and his wife, Barbara, still lived in the neighborhood where Leon grew up.

Those neighbors, who loved Leon and the entire Granahan family, are now banding together to ensure that the same tragedy does not happen to another.

Terry Granahan of Hingham, who is one of Leon’s older brothers, said the World’s End Neighborhood Association has formed a committee to work with the Harbormaster’s Office, the Trustees of Reservations and the Coast Guard to see that the culvert where Leon suffered injuries that cost him his life, is redesigned.

Leon and Barbara, who were experienced boaters, had been boating last Friday evening. They had some engine trouble, paddled nearer the shore, and were walking their Boston Whaler back to their mooring at about 5:30 p.m. when a strong current swept them into a nearby culvert that runs between Hingham Harbor and part of Damde Meadows, a salt marsh.

Barbara was swept clean through the pipe, which has a rectangular opening about 8 feet wide and 4 feet tall. She managed to hold onto some eelgrass and Jeffrey Prophete of Waltham, who was at World’s End, helped her to shore. Barbara was taken to the hospital where she was treated and released.

Kayak instructor and ranger, Caitlin Hurlihey of Quincy, and Max Kramer, a Hingham resident, who were also at World’s End when the accident occurred, were trying to hold onto Leon when the current pulled him through the culvert.

Leon “got caught some how” in the 30-foot pipe, police said. When he emerged on the other side, some 40 yards from solid land, he was unconscious. Hurlihey began CPR while Leon was in the water.

Terry Granahan said Leon hit his head inside the cement culvert and was knocked unconscious. Leon remained in critical condition and passed away Tuesday at South Shore Hospital.

Terry said the family and neighborhood are devastated. He described Barbara and Leon, who did not have children of their own, as “soul mates.”

The priest, the Rev. John Ahrens, who married Barbara and Leon at St. Bartholomew Parish in Needham, will preside at Leon’s funeral at St. Paul’s. Plans for the funeral had not been finalized by the time the Journal went to press. Pyne Keohane Funeral Home in Hingham is handling the arrangements. 

Leon worked at State Treasurer Timothy Cahill’s Office where he was recently promoted.

“Everybody loved him,” Terry said. “He was a gentle person and a good friend. And he was always a positive person. He was a very kind, gentle guy.”

Friday evening police received several 9-1-1 calls. Officer Robert Achille was the first police officer on the scene and saw two men and a woman holding Leon’s head above the water. Achille jumped into the water, which was about 4 to 5 feet deep and went to assist them. About a minute later, officers Corey Farina and Ryan O’Shea arrived and jumped into help. Leon was pushed to a mudflat where they continued to administer CPR. Paramedics arrived and took Leon to the hospital.

“Looking at the culvert you cannot tell how strong the current is,” said police spokesman Lt. Michael Peraino.

The Trustees of Reservations had warning signs posted along the culvert telling pedestrians to stay back. Those signs have been taken down three times over the past few days as an apparent act of vandalism and have been replaced. The Hingham Harbormaster’s Office and the Trustees of Reservations are working together to come up with a safety measure, such as a warning buoy or a post with a warning sign, to alert boaters about a strong current near the culvert.

The culvert was installed in 2003 as part of the Damde Meadows restoration project that involved installing two 4-foot by 8-foot concrete box culverts, sized to approximate unrestricted, natural tidal flow. The culverts replaced a failing drainpipe that extended below the two dikes and which connected Damde Meadows with Martin’s Cove.

Deputy Harbormaster Ken Corson said the signs near the culvert for walkers also need to be improved to ensure that no one goes into the water near the culvert.

Terry Granahan said children have been swimming within 50 feet of the culvert. He has talked to the Coast Guard, which is also investigating. He said a warning buoy would not be enough and said the design of the culvert — that creates such a strong current — itself needs to be addressed.

Steve Sloan, southeast regional director for the Trustees, said safety measures are being explored.

“The Trustees of Reservations are grieved by the tragic accident that occurred at World’s End on Friday, July 25th. Our thoughts are with the Granahan family during this very difficult time,” Sloan said. “The Trustees are committed to ensuring the safety of the more than 1,000,000 visitors to our properties each year.  We are working with the Hingham Harbormaster and other officials to review the incident.”

The Granahans are a well-known Hingham family. Leon was one of seven children, all who grew up on World’s End. There were bouquets of flowers, a cross and a heart made out of rocks at the scene this week.

Barbara works for the Hingham School Department’s Kids in Action program and is a home health aide.