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Ship worker critically injured in 25-foot fall

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


TAMPA -- A 38-year-old ship worker was in critical condition Sunday night after he fell through an open hatch aboard a tug boat being repaired in the Ybor Channel, police said.

Bruce Falconer of Waterville, Maine, was carrying an armful of tools on the second deck of the Valiant when he plunged 25 feet. The chief engineer was doing repair work aboard the boat, which was dry docked this week at Gulf Marine Repair Corp., an Ybor repair center at 1200 Sertoma Drive.

Falconer was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he is being treated for serious head and spinal injuries.

Phillip Reuben, safety director for the repair facility, said the ship has been docked at the facility for the past week for repairs to the propulsion shaft. He said crew members often live on the ships while awaiting repairs and continue to perform routine duties and other repairs on their own.

"We don't have anybody working at the ship yard (Sunday)," Reuben said. "Crew members opened up a soft patch and they failed to secure it, and one of their crew members stepped into it."

Reuben said accidents such as this one are rare.

"Being the safety director in the yard," Reuben said, "it's upsetting to hear."

- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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