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Shipbuilder of 39 years apparently plummets to his death in Virginia while working on aircraft carrier

USS George Washington in Norfolk Naval Station (U.S. Navy/WikiCommons)

A workplace accident has claimed the life of a veteran Newport News Shipbuilding employee in Virginia who may have fallen into a tank on Monday while he was working on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The employee was not identified pending notification of next of kin, a company spokesman told the New York Daily News.

“Our focus right now is just recovering our employee,” he said.

The emergency call about the accident went out at 1:46 p.m., reported WAVY-TV.

Company president Jennifer Boykin sent a statement to shipyard employees.

“This afternoon, we lost one of our fellow shipbuilders,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding Co., in a statement sent out to the man’s colleagues. “A construction supervisor with 39 years of shipyard service was fatally injured while working on USS George Washington (CVN 73) at Newport News Shipbuilding. We believe he fell while working in a tank, but we are still very early into the investigation.”

She said that U.S. Navy rescue and response personnel had attempted to rescue the man.

“Tragically, this effort was unsuccessful,” she said. “We are continuing to work hard to recover our fellow shipbuilder from the tank with assistance from the City of Newport News.”

The man was not being identified while recovery efforts were under way, she added.

The USS George Washington Spirit of Freedom aircraft carrier is a Nimitz class vessel, about a thousand feet long, 97,000 tons and able to carry 60 or more aircraft, according to the U.S. Navy. It was not clear where in the ship the workplace accident occurred, and company officials said the investigation was still in its early stages.

The aircraft carrier was in the middle of a refueling and complex overhaul, which is a four-year-long project that is administered just once during a ship’s 50-year-long life of service, according to WVEC-TV. Under way since August 2017, the overhaul includes repairs, upgrades and modernization, WVEC said. In addition the ship’s two nuclear reactors are being refueled.

Newport News said information on the accident was scant as the investigation continued.

“Our main focus right now is on this recovery effort,” Boykin said. “More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please keep our fellow shipbuilder in your thoughts and prayers.”


© 2019 New York Daily News