A 10,000 pound buoy accidentally fell on top of four civilian contractors at Pearl Harbor's Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, killing two men and injuring two others.
The four contractors were replacing a large buoy on the USS Tarawa on Wednesday when the platform holding a buoy 70 feet high collapsed, according to local news station KHON2. The safety lines attached to the buoy also failed, sending it crashing down on the workers who, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports, were standing on floating concrete platforms below.
Witnesses told Hawaii News Now that a nearby worker noticed the falling buoy and yelled for the men to get out of the way. Two men were able to escape with leg injuries, but a 42-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene while another, age 30, suffered a critical head injury and died later at a hospital. They were wearing protective hard hats, according to Hawaii News Now's report.
The white, circular buoy that crashed on the men was 15 feet in diameter.
Sources familiar with the maintenance facility told Hawaii News Now that contractors were not supposed to be working under the heavy buoy.
The victims, whose names have been withheld at the request of their families, worked for civilian contracting company Healy Tibbitts Builders and had been working to strengthen mooring lines used to keep ships in place, according to local news site KITV4.
The company has ceased work at the site, pending an investigation. "We are devastated to hear of the loss of two members of the Healy Tibbitts family... We do not know what caused the incident and will be working with the Navy and other agencies to investigate this tragic event," the company's president Rick Heltzel, said in a statement.
A U.S. Navy spokesperson said that a investigation is underway. Hawaii News Now reported that insurance companies and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration are also looking for any safety violations that led to the fatal accident.
"We're still looking at the facts to try to determine the exact locations of where these employees were located," Jeff Romeo, Honolulu area director for the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told Hawaii News Now.
"If in fact, they were working directly underneath the load, then that would be an alarming situation," Romeo said.
The U.S. Navy and Healy Tibbitts Builders offered their condolences to the contractors' families and all those affected.