Crane operator one of two in hospital after crash

klnelson@sunherald.comJune 26, 2014 

PASCAGOULA -- Two workers from VT Halter Marine remained hospitalized in Alabama on Thursday from an accident involving the shipyard's two largest cranes.

Several cranes were moving a section of a ship's bow Wednesday when the cranes collapsed. One hit the corner of a tool and equipment warehouse where people were working, officials said. The accident at the yard along Bayou Casotte injured five workers.

Jack Prendergast, Halter's executive vice president, told the Sun Herald on Thursday the crane operator was seriously injured. The other four injured workers had been in the warehouse, he said.

After the accident happened about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, the production crews, about 800 employees, were sent home. However, the 6:30 a.m. shift reported to work Thursday and work has resumed at the yard, company officials said.

Prendergast said OSHA investigators and representatives of the crane manufacturer were on the grounds Thursday.

Earl Etheridge, county emergency services director, told the Sun Herald on Wednesday one of the cranes totally collapsed, The Pascagoula Fire Department had to extract one worker from the warehouse it landed on.

Prendergast said one worker was immediately airlifted to the University of South Alabama Medical Center and the rest were taken to Singing River Hospital. From there, one was airlifted to the Mobile hospital and the other three were treated and released for "bumps, bruises and sprains."

The company has not released names of the injured or the conditions of the two in the hospital.

Prendergast did say Halter's CEO, Bill Skinner, was able to see the two and visited with their families Wednesday night.

Prendergast said the crane operator was injured inside the cabin of the crane, where he sat.

He said work has stopped in that area of the yard, where the accident happened, but all shifts were reporting.

"We're meeting with employees to talk about it," Prendergast said. "And they can meet with a counselor if they need to."

Prendergast did not have details Thursday about what happened, but the accident made a loud noise and many of the workers saw it.

Prendergast said he was in the conference room at the Pascagoula yard's headquarters and heard the noise.

VT Halter employs 1,600 people at three yards in East Jackson County. The Pascagoula yard along Bayou Casotte has about 1,000 employees, including engineers and production crew.

The others are at Halter Moss Point along Mississippi 63, and Moss Point Marine north of Interstate 10.

Margaret Baker, Sun Herald staffer, contributed to this report.

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