Worker killed in 80-foot fall from cherry picker at shipyard Another man injured, apparently saved by witness

August 15, 1998|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

One worker was killed yesterday and another seriously injured after they fell 80 feet from a lift device called a "cherry picker" at Baltimore Marine Industries Inc. in eastern Baltimore County.

Police said a third employee, who was working on the ground, was slightly injured after he saw his colleagues dangling from the overturned basket in the air and rushed to break the fall of one.

Courtney Johnson, 38, of the 2000 block of Clifton Ave. in Baltimore was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center after the accident at the Sparrows Point yard.

Leroy Hicks Jr., 52, of the 4300 block of Danlou Drive in Pikesville was listed in serious but stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Martin B. Carter, for whom police had no age or address, was also taken to Bayview where he was treated and released.

"All details aren't in, but it looks like Mr. Carter took great risk and perhaps saved Mr. Hicks," said Bill Toohey, Baltimore County Police Department spokesman.

According to police and fire department officials and a BMI executive, Johnson and Hicks were in the personnel lift about 11: 55 a.m. preparing to spray paint the side shell of a barge in the yard's graving docks when a cylinder beneath the basket broke, turning the bucket upside down.

Johnson was wearing a safety belt but it slipped to his leg, and he dangled over the floor of the graving dock several seconds. Hicks was not wearing a belt but grasped an air hose and hung from the lift.

Carter saw the accident and ran under the bucket. Hicks fell on top of Carter, authorities said.

The grip of the safety belt around Johnson's leg slipped and he fell to his death, they said.

Stephen F. Sullivan, vice president of Baltimore Marine Industries, declined to comment to The Sun.

In a press release, Sullivan said the accident was reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is under investigation. Probes of industrial accidents typically take three months to six months to complete, officials said.

Bethlehem Steel Corp. sold the shipyard last year after more than 100 years of constructing vessels from wood to steel. Overseas competition put the yard out of business.

Last month, BMI started work on its first barge at the sprawling property, where the company will build and repair at least four other barges. BMI was expected to receive $658,753 in federal funds to hire and retrain 600 former Bethlehem Steel workers laid off when the shipyard closed.

It could not be determined yesterday if any of the workers involved in the accident were among those being trained.

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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