EXCLUSIVE: Pearl Harbor buoy workers sue for negligence in accid - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Pearl Harbor buoy workers sue for negligence in accident

David Makua David Makua
Jay Friedheim Jay Friedheim
Three workers were injured and two were killed in a buoy accident in Pearl Harbor in 2014 Three workers were injured and two were killed in a buoy accident in Pearl Harbor in 2014
  • News LinksMore>>

  • Lawyer says fatal buoy accident was avoidable

    Lawyer says fatal buoy accident was avoidable

    Friday, January 2 2015 10:53 PM EST2015-01-03 03:53:42 GMT
    Saturday, January 3 2015 1:39 AM EST2015-01-03 06:39:54 GMT
    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.  ...More >>
    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.  ...
    More >>
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Three workers who survived a fatal buoy accident in Pearl Harbor more than a year ago sued their employers Wednesday for negligence, and complain they’ve waited months for medical care.

One of them has waited more than a year for an operation that would ease a painful foot injury.

David Makua nearly lost his life when a giant buoy snapped above him at Pearl Harbor last year. The Kaneohe man with two children said he and fellow survivors are now forced to sue to get proper treatment for their injuries.

On Dec. 10, 2014, a 7-ton buoy fell onto workers doing maintenance work at Pearl Harbor's Middle Loch, killing two of them and injuring two others.

Makua, 28, said the buoy hit him, causing foot, ankle and back injuries.

"And that's when it hit my back and my foot was stuck in the chain and that's what flew me off of the barge," Makua said.

Makua fractured his foot and doctors said he needed surgery to remove cartilage and ease constant pain.  A doctor hired by his employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier gave the OK the surgery that was finally scheduled early this month, a year after the accident, Makua said. But it was canceled when the company called for a second physician’s opinion just a day before his operation.

"You're working so hard for this company and all of a sudden you get hurt, you get into an accident. And they put all kind of obstacles in your way for you to get any of your injuries back to normal," Makua said.

Makua showed Hawaii News Now a photo of the large bruise on his back from the accident and said he sufferers from back pain caused by three bulging discs. But it took months to get approval to go to physical therapy and workers comp hasn't allowed him to get a doctor's treatment for his back, Makua said.

"I went back to work about three or four months after and I've been working in pain every since.  Taking pain meds and that's not the life I like live," Makua said.

Makua said he loves his job, which pays more than $100,000 a year, and wants to get better quickly to return to work. But his doctor has kept him out of work since December 18.

"These workers are not getting care and it's getting critical. These people, this is one of hundreds," said attorney Jay Friedheim, who is suing local subcontractor Healy Tibbitts Builders of New Jersey, Truston Technologies of Virginia and Weeks Marine, Inc. of New Jersey on behalf of Makua and two co-workers, saying they're owed $6 million in damages.

Investigations found the buoy's welds and bolts had rusted out and a safety cable wasn't strong enough to hold the weight of the buoy.

"That's pretty negligent,” Friedheim said. “That's so negligent that it cost people's lives and ruined the lives of the living workers that are there."

Friedheim said all three of his clients suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing their friends die that day in the harbor and from coming close to death themselves, but can’t get psychological care.

"There's no psychologist in the state of Hawaii that will take a federal workers comp claim. Because they can't get paid," Friedheim said.

Makua is on medical leave until he gets foot surgery and the second “independent medical exam” of his foot is scheduled for late January.

So he and his girlfriend are dipping into their savings and selling a family motorboat to make ends meet, since he's had no income over the holidays.

Hawaii News Now did not hear back from the Honolulu office of Healy Tibbitts for comment Wednesday.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly