A terrible accident at the Port of Tampa sent workers running for their lives Tuesday. One man is dead and another in critical condition after they were trapped aboard a ship for more than an hour.
Andre Futrell, 50, of Tampa is lucky to be alive, with non life-threatening injuries. We can certainly imagine, if a ton of steel fell on top of us, how serious our injuries might be.
It must have been a horrifying ordeal for the eight workers inside that cargo hold. We had dramatic pictures from SkyFOX of Futrell, who just had tons of steel pipes rain down on him, get plucked from inside the cargo hold of a ship and taken to Tampa General Hospital.
"It must have been terrifying for those workers," said Emilio Salabarria, who is the special operations chief with Tampa Fire Rescue.
Several men scrambled when the steel pipes they were bundling broke free during a lift.
"And for us, working on pipes that are scattered in every imaginable direction that you could imagine, like throwing a bunch of pixie sticks on the ground," continued Salabarria.
A few of the workers jumped to safety and freed themselves, but 56-year-old Hercules Gilmore of St. Pete was killed almost immediately.
"From what I could see, the pipes had covered both patients, and they were difficult to reach," said Salabarria.
It was tough getting Gilmore and Futrell out.
"It is difficult working in there and they moved the pipes they had to move, they moved only those that they had to move in order to get to the patient," said Salabarria.
One bundle is 10 pipes, which weighs a ton. So imagine 10 times that amount cutting loose.
"Ten bundles being moved off at a time, so we had 10 tons of pipe coming down, crashing on the deck of the ship. Or on the dock of the port, or inside the cargo hold where the workers were working," said Salabarria.
More than 20 specially trained firefighters worked to reach the trapped men. Gilmore and crew are union dock workers and were unloading the cargo ship 'Honesty Ocean' from Houston, Texas.
This is hard work and Salabarria said they take safety very seriously at the port.
"Safety is a very important part of the Port of Tampa and Tampa Fire Rescue, we take it very seriously, there have been a few accidents in the port, but there hasn't been an awful lot of accidents in the port," added Salabarria.
He added the port has a terrific safety record. Unfortunately, in a situation like this where you're moving incredibly heavy metal around, sometimes even the most skilled workers can be taken by surprise.
OSHA and Hillsborough County are investigating.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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