It’s tough to imagine a death worse than being crushed, but that’s exactly what happened to a young barge worker in Alaska. Twenty year old Spencer Vaughn Brewer lost his life on June 29th when he was knocked into the water of the Naknek River and then crushed between two barges. The death is a tragedy, but also highlights how dangerous even the most ordinary duties can be for a maritime worker.
A Tragic Accident
The fatal accident occurred in Bristol Bay, Alaska on the Naknek River. Brewer, a native of Seattle, Washington, worked as a deckhand for Naknek Barge Lines. At the time of the accident he was working aboard the tugboat Cross Point. As the tugboat approached three barges on the river it stopped so the crew could help fix a fouled mooring line.
Brewer and another worker disembarked the Cross Point, went aboard a vessel called Scout, and then got on top of the buoy under which the mooring line was fouled. The two worked to free the line, but the tide pushed the buoy towards one of the barges and Brewer fell into the water.
The young man was wearing appropriate safety gear. He had on a personal flotation device, but once in the water the two barges he was floating between were being pushed together by tidal waters. Brewer managed to get a foot hold on one of the barges, but would not have time to climb up it. He tried to go under water to avoid being crushed, but the buoyancy of the personal flotation device prevented him from being able to get away and he was trapped between the two barges. His body was carried by the tide and was later recovered down river. Although rescue workers were on hand, it was too late to revive him.
The Dangers of Working Barges and Tugboats
This terrible tragedy illustrates how dangerous any job in the maritime industry can be. Working on tugboats that push and pull cargo-laden barges might not seem like the most dangerous job, but there are so many ways that workers can get hurt or even killed.
As was the case with Brewer, a big risk in any maritime job is falling into the water. Even with safety gear, like personal flotation devices, these falls can lead to injuries, hypothermia, and drownings. In the worst cases, falls into the water result in such serious injury as Brewer experienced that the accident ends in a fatality.
There are many other ways in which deckhands and other workers on these vessels face risks every day on the job. Collisions between two boats, even when a worker is not in the water, can cause people to fall overboard and lead to injuries from shifting gear and cargo, trips, falls, and falling objects.
Often the injuries and deaths caused by accidents like these can be blamed on some kind of negligence. In this particular case, Brewer had his safety gear, but it didn’t help him. There may be a question as to whether he was trained to be doing the job safely or if there were any policies regarding disembarking to work on a buoy or another unanchored ship. Brewer may not have realized the risks he was taking when he made a move to repair the mooring line, but it was his employer’s responsibility to make sure that he did not take unnecessary risks.
How Maritime Laws Can Help
Unfortunately Brewer lost his life in this tragic accident, but if he had left any dependent loved ones behind, maritime laws could potentially provide compensation for them. Laws like the Jones Act allow survivors of maritime workers to file for monetary damages that can cover expenses like those for funerals and a child’s everyday needs. If you have been injured working on a barge or tugboat, let a maritime lawyer figure out how you can benefit from these laws.