Editorial: A questionable death at shipyard

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

It was a sickening sound, according to witnesses, a creaking, twisting harbinger of death when a 160-foot leg of the Goliath crane at the former Fore River shipyard came crashing to the ground and crushed Robert Harvey.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration investigation will determine who, if anyone, is responsible for Harvey’s death, and Norfolk District Attorney William Keating will look into possible criminal violations, again if any.

But one thing we know for certain: There is a widow in North Weymouth who is far too young to be planning a funeral and a life snatched too soon to be viewed as anything less than cruel.

From co-workers and neighbors to family and friends, the picture painted of Bob Harvey was one of a young man who embraced life and did his best to contribute what he could.

“I’m building America,” Harvey once proudly told his dad while talking about his vocation as an ironworker.

As an ironworker, Harvey also worked in one of the most high-risk jobs around. But high-risk doesn’t mean without safeguards, and we hope the people dismantling the 3,000-ton crane slow their pace enough to make sure all safety measures that can be used are.

There are many questions we all will be looking to have answered:

Why were the legs being taken down in 160-foot sections rather than the 80-foot sections laid out in the original plan?

Was the metal weaker than thought or did the cutting create greater stress?

Were any of the 16 violations that Norsar LLC, the firm dismantling Goliath and shipping it to Romania, had previously been cited for by OSHA in other jobs repeated in Quincy?

Is the remaining structure safe enough to continue the dismantling process?

Is a municipal building inspector, whose job normally entails permitting small projects, qualified to oversee such specialized, high-risk work?

Perhaps the answers to all of these will do nothing to determine culpability in Harvey’s death. But like the fatal collapse of a gantry crane at the shipyard in 2005 that killed two workers, there has to be satisfactory answers before work can proceed.

The shipyard has been out of operation for more than two decades, yet people are dying there. Goliath, despite being a landmark presence on the skyline, cannot be gone soon enough.

The Patriot Ledger