2 confirmed dead in shipyard explosion

Published 1:03 am Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moss Point Police and emergency crews confirmed two people died in an explosion at a Jackson County Shipyard.

Emergency crews responded to VT Halter Marine’s Escatawpa shipyard late Friday afternoon. Crews left the scene around 9 p.m. Friday after an evening rescuing survivors and recovering bodies.

From 4 pm on Friday until well after dark, emergency crews flooded into VT Halter Marine after a deadly explosion in the hull of a tugboat.

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“They were cleaning a tank, preparing it to be painted,” said VT Halter Marine CEO William Skinner.

The cause has not yet been released.

Officials confirmed Friday night that two people died in the accident, and three more were taken to Singing River Hospital.Hospital officials reported of those three, two were treated and released and the third was sent to the University of South Alabama’s burn center.

A sixth person was airlifted from the scene to Mobile, and was listed in critical condition.

Skinner said this accident is the first of this magnitude for the site. He said all of their workers are trained to uphold safety standards.

“They go through safety orientation,” Skinner said. “It’s a very straightforward process in cleaning and getting ready to paint. But again, the accident’s being investigated at this time.”

The names of those who died in Friday’s explosion have not been released.

The shipyard is one of three Jackson County shipyards run by the company. The company employs approximately 1,500 people in its Jackson County locations. Skinner said 250 employees work at that particular shipyard.

The shipyard is a shipbuilding facility that makes several different types of vessels, including several different tug boats.