Berne highway worker and former fire chief killed in accident

— Photo from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office

Peter Becker, a highway worker for the town of Berne, was killed Wednesday morning after he was crushed beneath a town dump truck. 

BERNE — Peter Becker, a Berne highway worker, was killed at the town transfer station Wednesday morning after a dump truck propped up by a pneumatic jack fell on him, Inspector J.T. Campbell of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office told The Enterprise. 

“He was working on the truck,” Campbell said, “and it was up on a jack stand and the jack stand failed.”

Becker, 52, was a former district chief of the Berne Fire District. 

“This guy is, like, huge in the community up on the Hill,” Campbell said. “He was a 30-year fireman. He did a lot for the Hill. It’s going to be a huge loss.” 

Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger could not immediately be reached for comment.

Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons canceled the town board’s workshop meeting that had been scheduled for Wednesday evening in response to the accident, and told The Enterprise that the town would hold grief counseling the evening of Oct. 22. The town website says that it’s open to “anyone affected by this tragedy.”

“Pete was our community, and it will be devastating,” Lyons said, describing Becker as a life member of Berne’s fire department and a “community cheer giver.” Lyons went on, “Pete is best known for his hugs and his smile.”

Becker was one of two highway workers laid off in 2016 over a dispute about a four-day workweek; both were quickly reinstated after widespread public outcry. Bashwinger led a protest march on the Berne Town Hall.

Last year, when Becker’s wife, Robin, ran for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board, he wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor, detailing her fine qualities that began “Not all superheroes wear capes!”

The transfer station was closed Wednesday and will resume operation on Oct. 24, according to a Facebook post made by Bashwinger.

On Bashwinger’s Road Report page and other community Facebook pages, like the Berne Happenings page and the Berne Fire District Page, Becker’s death has prompted an outpouring of grief and support. 

“Our hearts are shattered,” reads a post from the Berne Fire District page. “Past District Chief/Company Chief Peter Becker was killed in an accident at the highway garage this morning. Details regarding services will be announced later. RIP, Brother.”

Commenting on that post, 23 users, including the Schoharie Fire Department and Knox Volunteer Fire Department, offered condolences.

“The members and officers of the Greenville Fire Company are thinking about our fellow firefighters of the Berne Fire District,” reads a Facebook post by the Greenville Fire Company. “It is never easy responding to a call when it is one of your own, we are saddened to hear about the tragic loss of past District Chief/Company Chief Peter Becker today, he was a good man, may he Rest In Peace.”

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