Lawyer says fatal buoy accident was avoidable - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawyer says fatal buoy accident was avoidable

Jay Friedheim Jay Friedheim
Joefrey Andrada Joefrey Andrada
Justin Saragosa (first on left) Justin Saragosa (first on left)

A lawyer for one of the men injured in a fatal accident at Pearl Harbor's Middle Loch last month said they should never have been allowed to work right under a huge buoy that fell on them.

The buoy crashed into a group of workmen on a floating platform Dec. 10 at Pearl Harbor's West Loch, where the Navy stores out-of-service ships.

Joefrey Andrada, 42, of Waipahu was killed along with Justin Saragosa of Kapolei, who was 30 years old.

"It was a real tragedy that could have been avoided,"said attorney Jay Friedheim, an expert in maritime law who's representing one of two men injured in the incident.  His client, who asked that his name not be used, suffered back and leg injuries, has remained out of work since then.

He said the men were working directly under the 20,000-pound buoy when it broke free, violating federal workplace safety law.

"There are specific regulations that say workers are never supposed to work under a load. These people were working under a load," Friedheim said.

Friedheim said the workers were on a platform right under the crane lifting the huge buoy when it fell toward them.

"Instead of when the peak danger occurs, everybody's far from under the load, the way they were doing this was that as the peak danger occurred, 70 feet above the people, a 20,000 pound buoy is being held right over the workers," he said.

Friedheim questioned whether the workers' training was adequate, because they reported having watched a video that lasted only a few minutes showing workers lifting and working on the buoys ten years ago, the last time they were checked for maintenance.

"I think the question of is this training adequate is one of the core issues that has to be determined," he said.

Federal workplace safety law requires there's a safety officer in charge at dangerous workplaces but so far, Friedheim hasn't found one.

"Nobody's come forward and said, 'Hey, I'm the safety officer,'" he added.

Friedheim said the workers wove a 3/4 inch cable into a basket to catch the buoy in case it fell, but the back-up cable didn't hold up when the buoy came down.

Friedheim said his client is most concerned about the families of the two men who died and said in spite of the accident, he loves his company, contractor Healy Tibbitts, and hopes to return to work soon

"There's a feeling among the people and the workers down there of great loyalty to their employers who are trying to do the best they can to take care of them, to the whole process. These guys are real heroes. They're going to work in an extraordinarily dangerous circumstance,” Friedheim said.

A spokeswoman for Healy Tibbitts declined to respond to his charges, saying that the company is cooperating in numerous investigations.

A federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration probe is expected to take as long as six months and a Navy investigation should be completed sometime in January.

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