29 December 2013

A Death On The Dock

It was a beautiful late summer day. Salmon season was ending and the seiners were coming into the harbor after two months of fishing on the Sound. A seiner was docked at the crane and having its nets and a small skiff lifted up onto the pier. The Kaylor T had made its last contracted trip and the big tender was next in line. The captain was in the Fisherman's Lounge. He wanted a huge section of steel housing removed from the deck and put into storage at the cannery until next season.

The Plant Manager directed Francisco Flores to get the old mobile crane truck. The captain of the Kaylor T was an old friend. There was no reason to call him from the lounge to move the tender to the dock-mounted crane.

Francisco Flores advanced the old mobile crane to the edge of the dock above the Kaylor T and secured the stabilizer legs. He extended the boom out and began to lower the hook. It was low tide and the boat was far below the dock in the water. Francisco Flores let out a lot of cable to get the hook down to One-Eyed Eddie. The section of metal housing they were to move covered half the deck. Nobody had any idea what it weighed. Eddie secured the big four-ways sling to each of the corners and clasped the hook to it. "Winch up! Winch up!" Eddie yelled, signaling with his index finger.

Francisco Flores began to slowly bring in cable, lifting the massive section of ship housing up off the Kaylor T. It was halfway up to the dock when they heard it. It started as a wail, just audible over the engine of the boom truck. The wailing grew louder and louder, and then it was an ear piercing screeching. The Dock Lead yelled at Francisco Flores to put it down, put it down! The front stabilizing legs on the boom truck were bending, the steel shrieking, and as Francisco Flores lowered the load, the legs snapped, pitching the boom truck forward, skidding across the pavement and crashing into the low wooden barrier at the dock edge, and Francisco Flores was ejected from the cockpit of the crane truck out over the edge of the dock.

His head hit two rungs on the dock ladder before he landed on his back on the deck of the Kaylor T. Francisco Flores had fallen more than thirty feet. His hard hat lay beside him, cracked in half.

Eddie was the first to him. The left side of Francisco Flores' head was cleaved open and there were bits of brain in his hair. He lay upon the steel cover of a fish hold, blood pooling under him. His eyes were open and he seemed to respond as Eddie knelt beside him, talking to him.

Someone pulled Eddie away and the lady from human resources kneeled down and started pumping his chest. Blood sputtered from Francisco Flores' mouth. Eddie yelled at her to stop; his back could be broken and the CPR could kill him. But she continued pumping his chest, and listening for breathing, until finally Francisco Flores groaned and the last air went out of him. There was nothing more to be done.

On the dock the Plant Manager had called over two forklift drivers. He told them to pick up and move the damaged mobile crane truck. He wanted it moved off the dock and taken across the street and put inside the welding shop.  He wanted it moved as quickly as possible.

The forklift drivers had just gotten the mobile crane truck off the dock when an ambulance and two police cruisers arrived. On the deck of the boat the EMS team declared Francisco Flores dead. There was nothing to be done for him. The police officers were furious. The mobile crane had been moved, disturbing the accident scene. The Plant Manager was told he was likely to be charged with evidence tampering.

The company lawyer was immediately dispatched to a tiny pueblo in Chihuahua, Mexico to deliver the bad news to the wife of Francisco Flores and his four children, as well as a check for $25,000, if only SeƱora Flores would sign three documents, inconveniently written in English, a language she could neither speak nor read. The cannery pledged to put up half the money for the funeral and the lady from human resources, who had unsuccessfully performed CPR on Francisco Flores, collected the remainder in worker donations.

A meeting was called on the dock. The Plant Manager announced that in memory of Francisco Flores the mobile crane truck would no longer be used. He explained that Francisco Flores had made a grave error in attempting to lift a load clearly in excess of the capacity of the mobile crane. It never should have been attempted. The lady from human resources added that Francisco Flores had been negligent in filling out the daily safety checklist and signing his name to it, as all equipment operators are required. After the meeting, One-Eyed Eddie dropped a pallet of frozen herring on the Plant Manager's BMW and got himself permanently banned from driving a forklift.

Today, in the employee break room, there hangs on the far wall in the corner and only partly obscured by the Pepsi machine, a framed photograph of Francisco Flores standing on the dock and smiling broadly, and beneath it the caption, "We Will Always Remember, 1970-2012."


Dr. Leah M. Akins said...

Hi Pete. This is Leah. The injustice in this story is so disturbing. Anyway, I saw your reply from a couple of posts ago and emailed it to Jeff. He loved the Into The Wild story not because of the tragic death but because of the beautiful simplicity of the life. Also, the music in the movie soundtrack is amazing :) Perhaps you could email him at akinshill@verizon.net since he can't post and he won't get a google account (or fb, twitter, Instagram, etc).

Dr. Leah M. Akins said...

And happy new year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Post a Comment

Copyright © S O U T H