Victim’s family speaks out about deadly shipyard explosion

By Patrice Clark- bio | email

ESCATAWPA, MS (WLOX) – The cause of the deadly blast at VT Halter Marine remains a mystery as company and federal investigators continue to look for answers. The explosion in the hull of a tugboat Friday killed two and injured four others.

CEO Bill Skinner said the majority of his staff returned to the yard Monday, but crews will not work on the tug boat project until the investigation is over.

Meanwhile, the families of Alexander Caballero and Dwight Monroe began making funeral arrangements.

Alex Caballero's wife of almost two years could hardly get the words out.  She was comforted by the 25-year-old's mother, father and stepfather.

"I think we are still in a state of shock. I have not started mourning my son yet," Sandra Murphy said.

Murphy came in from California this past Thursday to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with her son, but she had only one day to laugh and talk with her boy.

"Alex was one for the holidays, and he loved Christmas, and he loved Thanksgiving. We had made plans to go to the movies."

Instead, the phone call every mother dreads came after the huge explosion at VT Halter Marine.

"Our Alex is gone," Caballero's mom said.

Family members said they don't blame the company for the accident, but they do want answers as to what caused the blast.

"We will find out what happened, how it happened and we will go from there," stepfather Shawn Murphy said.

"At first you do, you blame the world.  And you also say, 'Why our Alex?  Other people survived.  Why?'  You know what?  You can't blame anybody.  This is really all in God's hands.  Alex is just, it was his calling, and it was his time.  God has many, many other plans for him."

Chris Holmes has worked at Halter for just three months. Holmes said his shift ended just 30 minutes before the blast.  He's still pretty shaken up.

"That could have happened to me, but it just so happened I wasn't here," Holmes said.

Holmes said workers received their regular Monday safety briefings, which had added significance this week.

"We're really just trying to step up the safety, a little bit."

OSHA is currently investigating this accident. Representatives say in 2008, the Moss Point Shipyard was fined for a serious wiring violation.

CEO Bill Skinner said the company has a strong safety policy in place.

"We have never had an accident like this in the history of VT Halter Marine," Skinner told WLOX News.

Federal investigators say they started their investigation at the Escatawpa Shipyard Saturday. They have 60 days to find out what caused this deadly explosion.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus confirmed to WLOX News that back in October, a Louisiana contract worker died after falling 60 feet from some scaffolding at the Pascagoula work site.  She said 23-year-old Andrew Magee died at Singing River Hospital of multiple blunt force injuries.

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