Home / Blog / Deaths at Detyens Shipyards mount amid concerns from Navy leader, federal investigators

Deaths at Detyens Shipyards mount amid concerns from Navy leader, federal investigators

Nov 29, 2023Nov 29, 2023

NORTH CHARLESTON — Four men working on government vessels at Detyens Shipyards have met gruesome deaths over the past three years, an alarming escalation in fatalities that continued even after federal inspectors and a U.S. Navy commander raised red flags over safety.

In contrast, about as many workers died on the job at Detyens, a private ship repair business, over the entire two decades prior.

The recent spate of fatalities at the shipyard, sprawled over North Charleston’s former Navy base, began in April 2019. On a cool spring morning, a wire rope broke, freeing a metal arm that weighed more than a Toyota Camry, crushing a welder aboard a Navy cargo ship.

Two months later, as summer sweltered in, a Navy civilian tumbled off a ladder and plunged several stories below. His safety harness wasn’t clipped in.

Six months after that, in January 2020, a shackle snapped and flew up like a slingshot through a hole in a ship’s deck. It struck a welding quarterman in the face, causing him to fall forward and plummet two decks below.

Then, in July, a worker careened down the smokestack of the same Navy ship where the welder was crushed three years earlier. He landed about 100 feet below in the engine room. It took rescue crews hours to retrieve his soot-covered body.

All but one of those fatalities took place on ships owned by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, yet it has continued sending Detyens hundreds of millions of dollars in business, dwarfing penalties lobbed by federal safety officials.

Since the recent uptick in deaths began, Detyens has paid $35,632 in fines to the nation’s safety agency — but received at least $300 million in contracts from the sealift command. That translates to roughly one penny in fines for every $84 in business.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dredge Wheeler sits in dry dock at Detyens Shipyards on Oct. 18. A shipyard employee was killed on the ship in 2020. Henry Taylor/Staff

Maritime experts say that while shipyards are inherently dangerous places, the recent pace of deaths is troubling. Detyens accounts for only a few hundred of America’s 140,000 shipyard workers, but it has begun to average one death per year in an industry that typically sees six nationwide.

Charleston County’s coroner, Bobbi Jo O'Neal, said she couldn't think of a local workplace with more accidental fatalities in recent years.

“They need to take a good, hard look at their culture,” said James Thornton, a former shipyard safety executive who is president-elect of the American Society of Safety Professionals, an Illinois-based organization that advocates for workplace safety.

For instance, of the four men who died more recently, three fell from dangerous heights. Records show that none was clipped in with a safety harness.

“This is just basic safety. This is not sophisticated safety stuff,” said Jim Maddux, former director of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office that sets maritime safety standards.

Detyens’ president, Loy Stewart Jr., and a shipyard attorney did not respond to multiple email and phone requests over several weeks to discuss the company’s safety record. A man who answered Stewart’s work phone hung up on a reporter seeking comment.

In a 2015 guide to Detyens, the company touted its commitment to safety: “We believe that the safety of our employees, customers, sub-contractors and guests is of utmost importance.”

Others have raised concerns.

In response to the April 2019 death, a Navy commander sent an email to the OSHA inspector investigating the tragedy. He noted that the Military Sealift Command had previously presented safety concerns to Detyens’ leaders “on a number of occasions.”

OSHA’s records also describe inconsistent enforcement of safety protocols, a finding that mirrors what current and former employees told the newspaper.

As Rodney Boyd, a former Detyens rigger who was injured on the job in late 2017, put it: “Everybody feels unsafe.”

Mario Danque's sisters have kept his hard hat and photographs to remember the 29-year-old, an electrician killed on the job at Detyens Shipyards in 2000. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Detyens traces its roots back six decades to the vision of a merchant mariner and WWII veteran who settled in Charleston.

Bill Detyens’ business on the Wando River became one of a handful of yards that fed on Charleston’s status as a Navy town, a complement to the government-run shipyard in North Charleston. Workers helped keep up the freighters, tankers and assault ships that carried cargo, fuel and vehicles where the military needed them.

DETYENS SHIPYARDS: The private ship repair business sits on North Charleston's former U.S. Navy base near the city's Riverfront Park. (SOURCE: ESRI)

Then came 1993. The Pentagon concluded that the Navy had more shipyards than it needed. It viewed others as more important than the one in Charleston, and that was that. The Navy town lost the Navy.

The shipyard’s new owner, Detyens’ son-in-law D. Loy Stewart Sr., saw an opportunity. Teaming up with a couple of other businessmen, he made a bid to take over the facility.

“We went from the country fair to Disney World, with the best facility that taxpayer dollars could build,” company president Loy Stewart Jr. told trade publication MarineLink in 2018.

Stewart Sr., a beloved figure, battled Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for years before his death in June 2020. Today, his three sons own the business.

Tower cranes loom above old brick structures from the former Naval Base and three canyon-like dry docks on the western bank of the Cooper River, the shortest of which is roughly the length of two football fields. Just south of North Charleston’s Riverfront Park, they fill like giant bathtubs about 30 feet deep to accept each new ship.

By Lauren Johnson

Detyens accounts for more than half of the privately owned, Navy-certified dry docks on the East Coast south of Virginia, according to a government report.

Indeed, the Navy calls on Detyens often, namely its little-known logistics arm called the Military Sealift Command. The command’s ships carry cargo and fuel, run floating hospitals and lay cable across the ocean floor.

Its ships, with distinctive rings of light blue and gold on their smokestacks, are a steady presence on North Charleston’s skyline, even after its leaders worried about the safety of the workers below.

Detyens Shipyards in North Charleston on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

In a series of somberly narrated OSHA videos, computer-animated shipyard workers demonstrate the myriad ghastly ways bad safety decisions have killed workers across the industry.

A welder crushed by a giant steel plate. Painters burned to death in a confined space. A diver drowned making underwater ship repairs.

Experts like Maddux and Thornton, who dedicated much of their careers to shipyard safety, agree that the industry is inherently dangerous. Shipyard workers are injured more often than their counterparts in manufacturing and construction, according to federal data.

Still, the industry overall has become far safer than it once was. For instance, America's three largest shipyards — giant shipbuilders in Virginia, Connecticut and Mississippi that employ about 50,000 people — recorded a combined three deaths from 2019 to 2021, according to OSHA data.

Mario Danque was 29 and working as an electrician at Detyens Shipyards in 2000 when he was electrocuted on the job. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

And for two decades, work-related deaths at Detyens were rarer than in recent years, if still horribly tragic.

David Coates worked at several shipyards, including Detyens, where he was a hull quarterman, basically a foreman. Like a lot of sailors, he got out of the Navy and stuck around the shipyard business.

During his tenure at Detyens from 2011 to 2016, he saw a shipyard that emphasized safety, and he did so himself. His shop had weekly training sessions, he said, and all supervisors were given a 20-hour OSHA safety training course.

Anyone, “from the newest laborer to the top dog,” could shut down a job due to a safety issue, he added. The shipyard even has an on-site medical center.

Yet no matter the training, a momentary lapse can be devastating. “It takes keeping your head on a swivel all the time,” Coates said.

For instance, in 1999, a 58-year-old electrician named Bernard Krolak Jr. took a step and tumbled 25 feet to the bottom of a barge.

The following year, a 29-year old electrician named Mario Danque II was summoned to the engine house of a crane, then left to examine an overheating motor. A co-worker found him electrocuted, jolted by about 440 volts. Nobody had made sure the electricity was turned off, OSHA found.

Marlena Therrell, one of Danque’s older sisters, arrived home that day after taking her toddler to play in the sprinklers at Wannamaker County Park. She found her mother curled on the couch sobbing clutching a photograph of Danque. The coroner had just left the house.

Sisters Darla Grammer (left) and Marlena Therrell (right) hold a photograph of their brother, Mario Danque. The 29-year-old was working as an electrician at Detyens Shipyards in 2000 when he was electrocuted on the job. The sisters said he had voiced concerns about safety enforcement. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Danque worked at Detyens through Shiptech America, a private business formed several years earlier to provide the non-union shipyard with maintenance support.

OSHA cited Shiptech for numerous “serious” violations. An agency director wrote to Danque’s parents that the space where he was working had not been de-energized. His employer had failed to ensure he wore proper protective equipment or to provide a rubber mat or other suitable insulation underfoot while he worked on an energized circuit.

As the men’s loved ones grieved, another man fell to his death in 2002.

Then, in 2005, a teenager went to work at the shipyard with his father.

Matthew Williamson was 18, a recent Summerville High graduate working briefly as a pipefitter’s helper before heading to college. His father, David, was a pipefitter working aboard the USNS Supply, a combat support ship operated by the Military Sealift Command.

Father and son both worked for Knight’s Services, a Summerville-based subcontractor whose employees were repairing one of the ship’s sewage tanks. That included fixing a pipe in its holding room.

To do that safely, the pipes needed to be clear.

David Williamson told The Post and Courier that earlier he had raised concerns about sewage leaking into the area and the smell of rotten eggs, a worrisome sign of potentially lethal hydrogen sulfide gas.

But Matthew had been working in another area of the ship. And David figured that as long as he was at the shipyard, his son would be safe.

David and Tina Williamson keep a photo of their son, Matthew, from his senior year at Summerville High School. Matthew was killed at age 18 while working at Detyens Shipyards to save money for college. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

One day in late 2005, David had to miss work to get medical care for a prior on-the-job injury, he said. He dropped Matthew off at the shipyard.

That afternoon, Matthew was sent into a room that housed a sewage tank to help repair a pipe. With him was a welder apprentice who had just turned 20 and a third worker who spoke little English. In the bowels of the ship, the trio descended a ladder into a room cramped with the 8,610-gallon tank.

When the men loosened bolts and pried apart a flange on the pipe, raw sewage poured into the space. Those men escaped back up the ladder.

Matthew died of chemical asphyxia after being overcome by hydrogen sulfide.

OSHA cited both Detyens and Knight’s, which has since been dissolved. Among the violations: inadequately training workers, failing to test the space or stop the work after employees smelled rotten eggs, and lacking a written fire safety plan that included procedures for evacuation, among other violations.

Matthew’s mother, Tina, recalled the son they lost. “He was so smart and funny, a child who was just such a blessing.”

But as the couple grieved, Detyens largely vanished from the headlines.

The company’s website touted its “pristine safety record.”

David and Tina Williamson hold a photo of their 18-year-old son, a recent high school graduate who died at Detyens Shipyards on Dec. 1, 2005. "It is hard losing our 18-year-old," Tina said. "He was such a good boy." Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The period after Matthew’s death in 2005 was among Detyens’ safest on paper.

Most years, it had fewer than 10 federal workers’ compensation claims, an accomplishment it had achieved only once since the mid-1980s. OSHA went years at a time without issuing a citation.

Yet, as time passed, concerning signs emerged. At least two employees filed lawsuits accusing Detyens of firing them because they had filed workers’ comp claims. One man alleged he was told, “If you hadn’t gone to Human Resources, you wouldn’t be fired,” according to court records. Detyens denied wrongdoing in both cases. One plaintiff settled; the other dropped his lawsuit.

Then, in 2014, OSHA arrived for a top-to-bottom inspection. It fined Detyens for violating 15 rules, including inadequate fall protection, problems with emergency exits and overloaded electrical wiring.

Darlene Fossum, the safety agency’s Columbia area director, issued a stern public rebuke: “I am concerned that this company is promoting a 'pristine safety record,' yet continues to violate OSHA standards.”

She added, “Management must take immediate action.”

Three years later, OSHA records show, a man working on a Navy ship was shocked while climbing down a ladder. He plunged 20 feet onto a platform, bounced, and landed a level below. He was hospitalized with injuries to his ribs, shoulder and back.

Not two months later, when it was time for a Navy ship to leave dry dock, a rigger supervisor who was not a qualified crane operator decided to operate one anyway.

Workers walk in and out of the gates at Detyens Shipyards. Henry Taylor/Staff

The man was trying to use a tower crane to remove a 70-foot gangway, a temporary bridge connecting the ship with dry ground. The gangway swung toward him, smashing him into a guardrail, breaking both of his legs, an OSHA report says.

The motion tossed another worker off the gangway and onto a deck.

That man, Rodney Boyd, was grateful to find a job at Detyens as a rigger — a worker who moves heavy objects — after his release from prison. But when asked about safety training he received, he laughed.

Now 56, Boyd said riggers like him got a pair of boots, goggles and a harness — then were sent out. They worked many hours of overtime, often in Charleston’s brutal heat.

Due to his injuries, Boyd now has an internal spinal cord stimulator. Later, Detyens fired him for failing a drug test, a finding he unsuccessfully challenged.

Other former workers at the shipyard told The Post and Courier that they raised safety concerns to deaf ears. One said he gave up after he “got sick of saying something.”

That’s a concerning sign, experts say. The safest shipyards empower workers at all levels to speak up if they see problems and to take the time to do the job safely, even when there’s a time crunch.

Thornton ran the safety department at Newport News Shipbuilding, a massive facility in Virginia that builds aircraft carriers, where he emphasized that a focus on safety must run all the way up the chain. If it doesn’t, it will snap at its weakest link.

A crane hovers over the work space at Detyens Shipyards in North Charleston. Henry Taylor/Staff

It’s impossible to tell whether injuries at Detyens spelled looming trouble. OSHA requires shipyards to submit the number and severity of injuries their workers suffer, according to a U.S. Department of Labor spokeswoman.

But Detyens does not appear in the agency’s online injury databases. “Apparently, Detyens is a non-responder,” the spokeswoman said. Not reporting, she added, is an OSHA violation.

However, The Post and Courier obtained three years’ worth of Detyens’ injury records from OSHA through a public documents request. The agency had paper copies of reports in an investigative file into one worker’s death. And those records show that from 2018 to 2020, the shipyard self-reported a lower rate of injuries than the industry average, even as the deaths occurred.

That might not tell the whole picture.

Detyens hires a large portion of its workforce from HiTrak Staffing, a temporary employment agency deeply intertwined with the shipyard. HiTrak is owned by Detyens executives and has one customer: Detyens.

Based on the limited public records available, HiTrak appears to keep injury numbers off Detyens’ statistics. In 2018, the year before the recent spate of deaths began, HiTrak reported more than twice as many injuries as Detyens over fewer work hours, according to figures in an OSHA file. Its rate was more than double the shipyard industry average.

In interviews with the newspaper, former workers also described a shipyard rife with hazards.

Indeed, ambulances responded to Detyens’ address at least 119 times over the last five years — roughly once every two weeks. A log for Charleston County’s Emergency Medical Services mentions calls for “traumatic injuries” 14 times, falls 10 times, fainting eight times and high-angle rescues four times. (The log does not specify whether the calls involved Detyens employees or others; the county refused to release more detailed information, citing patient privacy.)

Records also show that first responders were called for suspected drug overdoses on at least three occasions, including a 2018 fatality.

Civilian mariners learn how to use lifeboats on the USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus in the Gulf of Thailand in 2016. Two workers at Detyens Shipyards have died working on the ship, including one man who was crushed in 2019 by one of the metal arms that holds the ship's lifeboats. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy/Provided

Then came April 2019, when the recent work-related deaths began.

Juan Antonio Villalobos Hernandez started his shift at 7 a.m., attended the daily job safety and hazards briefing, then reported to the USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus, a Navy ship with a cargo hold the size of three supermarkets.

The 43-year-old welder’s job was to grind rust and damage off davits, the metal arms that hold lifeboats up on ships. To prepare for the work, the lifeboats had been removed, and wire rope held each 3,640-pound davit out of the way.

Hernandez, a contractor whose wife lived in Mexico, was working under an alias, records say. He spoke little English, which other workers described as common.

Under the alias, Hernandez had signed a form written in Spanish saying he received safety training. He also was wearing protective equipment that day, including a welding helmet and safety harness.

But they had little effect when, just after 9 a.m., a wire rope holding a davit broke, likely due to an electrical arc, an OSHA report says. The giant metal arm slid down its track and, unimpeded, crushed Hernandez.

By the time a crane could lift the davit arm off him, he was dead.

Court records show that the way Detyens had tied up the davit arm was its standard practice. One project manager said in a deposition it had been done the same way throughout his 23 years working there.

So when Detyens’ top safety official, Michael Marshall, wrote up his investigation on Hernandez’s death, he concluded that the accident owed, in large part, to a lack of instructions on how to safely secure the davit arms and a failure to recognize that they were a safety hazard, a draft report filed in court records shows. He also felt that Hernandez had put himself in an unsafe position.

In a deposition in December, Marshall repeated these views.

Yet his final report deleted the conclusions related to Detyens’ practices.

Marshall testified he changed his conclusions at the behest of a top Detyens executive, Larry Reynolds, who had the ability to veto the report. Attorneys for Hernandez’s estate described the revision in a court filing as “highly suspicious.”

Meanwhile, Detyens took corrective action, such as removing davit arms during welding and adding more restraining wires plus chocks to the davit arm tracks for back-up safety. It also paid OSHA $15,391 in fines. That included a penalty increase due to “repeat violations within the past five years,” records show.

Detyens’ business continued unabated. Two weeks after Hernandez was killed on one of its ships, Military Sealift Command awarded Detyens a contract for some $9.4 million.

Matthew Williamson was 18 when his father, David, gave him his old hard hat when the teenager joined him working at Detyens Shipyards in 2005. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

On the Monday morning after Hernandez died, the commander of Military Sealift Command typed up an email. Then-Rear Adm. Dee Mewbourne addressed it to the OSHA officer investigating the death and CCed a dozen Navy and OSHA staff.

The subject line: “Detyens Shipyard Safety Culture.”

He wanted to address “the tragic loss of life.” Already, Mewbourne wrote, the command had gone to Detyens’ leadership “on a number of occasions” to convey safety concerns. Mewbourne added that he had directed the command’s safety officer to provide OSHA with “data and documents” outlining those concerns.

He did not elaborate about those safety concerns.

Or how many times the sealift command had raised red flags.

But documents obtained by The Post and Courier through an open-records request show that before Mewbourne sent his email, sealift command had chronicled quality control problems they wanted the shipyard to address. Often, they wrote of lax safety oversight.

Among other things, sealift command personnel complained of loose hoses and cables on their decks, welders repeatedly working without anyone watching for fire, exposed wires close to metal fixtures. They wrote of gangways that fell, hoists that failed and a pallet of furniture suspended above a pier that plummeted to the ground.

At one point, the government had asked Detyens to address “why safety concerns brought to the attention of management by either (Detyens) safety or ships (sic) personnel are resolved slowly or not at all?”

Cranes hover over Detyens Shipyards on North Charleston's former Navy base. Henry Taylor/Staff

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether OSHA received the records Mewbourne offered to send. While a copy of the email thread made it into OSHA’s investigation file, the documents themselves were not included in materials provided to the newspaper in response to a public records request.

The OSHA inspector Mewbourne emailed did not respond to an inquiry from The Post and Courier. Mewbourne and a sealift command spokesperson declined to answer questions, citing ongoing litigation.

But in a federal lawsuit filed by Hernandez’s estate, a sealift command official named Juanita Broennimann explained in her deposition the command’s quandary.

“There is not enough commercial ship repair to support both commercial industry, the Maritime Administration and Military Sealift Command,” she said. “We’re always struggling with what ship is going to be able to get into a yard.”

So the Navy continued pouring millions into Detyens. Eleven days after Mewbourne sent his email — and 16 days after Hernandez died aboard one of its ships — the sealift command announced it was signing yet another contract with the shipyard.

Not three months later, another worker died at Detyens — this time one of the command’s own.

Details of Martin Anthony’s death remain a mystery, even to those who were aboard the USNS William McLean in June 2019.

Navy civilian mariner Martin Anthony died aboard the USNS William McLean in June 2019 while the ship was being serviced at Detyens Shipyards. Provided

Unlike the other men who had died on the job at Detyens — and were employed by the shipyard or its subcontractors — Anthony was one of the 7,000 civilians who staff the sealift command’s ships around the world. A civil service mariner since 2015, he had received a promotion two days earlier and was scheduled to take leave the next day, a friend recalled.

The ship he worked on was undergoing maintenance at Detyens, and Anthony worked with some of his fellow crew members that day. It was already pushing 90 degrees around 11 a.m. when he climbed a ladder to paint part of the ship 30 to 40 feet up.

Shortly after he ascended, a man working below him was hit by what he later figured was Anthony’s leg. When the impact knocked off his hard hat, he turned to see Anthony free-falling toward the deck.

Anthony was wearing a harness, according to police and coroner’s reports, but he apparently was not clipped in. Richard Blake, the deck officer on watch who called 911 from the ship, recalled seeing the harness clips lying on Anthony’s back after the fall.

A shipmate described Martin Anthony, a Navy civilian mariner, as a hard-working and soft-spoken man who passed the time at sea drawing sketches. Provided

At 51, Anthony was a seasoned seaman, Blake said, a hard worker who came up working on fishing boats. Kind and soft-spoken, he passed the time at sea drawing pencil sketches.

Blake said he still doesn’t understand why his friend died. He should have been clipped into multiple hooks. The safety observer on duty at the time was looking away when Anthony fell, he said.

Details remain scant for the public, as well. Unlike other on-the-job fatalities at Detyens, which OSHA investigates, Anthony’s death appears to have been considered a maritime accident, so the duty fell to the Coast Guard. The agency has yet to release a copy of its findings in response to an open-records request The Post and Courier submitted in July; the public records law required a response in August.

The month after Anthony’s death, the Navy commander who wrote the email about safety concerns was promoted. It’s unclear what happened to his concerns after that. He has since retired.

But one thing is clear: Later that summer, sealift command announced another contract for Detyens. This one was worth at least $21.3 million.

And six months after Anthony’s death, yet another shipyard worker was killed.

This time, a 34-year-old father died while working on a dredging ship owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After serving a decade in the Navy, David Clark took a job at Detyens in 2013. Many saw him as a hard worker, a lover of fishing and golf who might climb the ranks to join the legions of employees who have devoted decades to the shipyard.

David Clark was killed on the job at Detyens Shipyards on Jan. 13, 2020. He served in the U.S. Navy before taking a job at the ship repair business. Provided

Two months earlier, the Summerville resident had learned that his wife was pregnant. The young family, including two older children, spent Christmas of 2019 dressed in matching red Santa Squad T-shirts and pajama pants.

After the holidays, on Jan. 13, 2020, Clark worked with a crew removing the port rudder stock, a large piece of equipment that extends through a ship’s hull to attach to the rudder. It had been leaking fluid.

A few days earlier, employees had cut an opening in the ship’s helicopter deck down to the steering gear room, creating a hole leading to the port rudder stock two decks below.

Clark, a quarterman in the hull shop, perched on a steel I-beam over the opening, a 5-by-5-foot hole. Looking down two decks, he helped guide the lift, according to OSHA records.

In those moments, he was not wearing a safety harness. Although a supervisor had earlier told another worker to wear one, he did not tell Clark to do so.

“Apparently nobody thought it was necessary to bring this unsafe situation to David Clarks (sic) or anyone else’s attention,” an OSHA report says.

David Clark posed with his pregnant wife, Analyn, and two older children during Christmas 2019. He died at Detyens Shipyards on Jan. 13, 2020. Provided

As a crew guided a system to raise the 14,727-pound rudder stock, a shackle broke. Tension on the cable caused the shackle to slingshot up through the hole.

It struck Clark’s face with enough force to fracture his skull and knock off his hard hat and safety glasses. He pitched forward through the hole and plummeted down two decks into the steering room. He died due to a devastating head injury, the coroner’s report says.

Afterward, Detyens told OSHA it would train current and future workers in how to protect themselves from falls and detailed how it had done so. It also argued that Clark was a supervisor who knew better than to put himself in harm’s way.

In fact, Clark was a quarterman, which is a lead man in charge of several groups of people doing similar work — but not technically a supervisor, according to OSHA. Although Detyens “regularly claims employee misconduct,” OSHA found it didn’t apply here.

Instead, the agency’s area director wrote an investigative summary: “The safety and health rules are not routinely enforced.”

A couple months after David Clark was killed, COVID hit.

For two years, the deaths halted.

Then, in the grueling heat of July this year, a 63-year-old welder stood working on a small platform inside the top of a Navy cargo ship’s smokestack.

The platform gave way.

The man, Claudio Munoz Bustos, hurtled about 100 feet down from the upper deck to the engine room, records show. Coworkers lost sight of him.

It took almost two hours to find him. Emergency responders finally cut a small access hole in the exhaust vent to lay eyes on the man, his body coated in brown soot.

Bustos was wearing a blue T-shirt, knee pads and work boots — but not his blue safety harness, the coroner’s report says. It lay up next to the hole where he had been welding on the Jack Lummus, the same ship where a davit arm crushed Hernandez three years earlier.

In his wallet, tucked in a back pocket of his tan pants, a coroner found Bustos had a Mexico-issued government ID. Like Hernandez, he was working under an alias. With the help of a Spanish-language interpreter, a coroner reached Bustos’ wife in Mexico to deliver the news of his death.

OSHA has not completed its investigation into this latest fatality. But a few weeks after Bustos died, the sealift command made an announcement. It was awarding Detyens another multi-million dollar contract.

Just weeks after Claudio Munos Bustos died, the Pentagon announced Detyens Shipyards would receive a contract worth at least $16.5 million to work on the USNS Patuxent, a Military Sealift Command ship. It arrived in Charleston Harbor on Oct. 3. Brad Nettles/Staff

Jocelyn Grzeszczak contributed to this report.

Contact Jennifer Hawes at 843-937-5563. Follow her on Twitter @jenberryhawes.

The recipients were recognized for their actions during Operation Allies Refuge, the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021. It was one of the largest evacuation operations in American history.

Watchdog and Public Service reporter

On-the-job fatalities at Detyens have mounted amid red flags from a Navy leader and federal investigators. Read moreDeaths at Detyens Shipyards mount amid concerns from Navy leader, federal investigators

Derryck Barentine had just turned 20 and was working as a welder apprentice through a contractor at Detyens Shipyards, a ship repair yard in North Charleston. In the sprawling industrial complex, deaths due to falls, crushing and electrocution have left coworkers like him — men and women scarred by the tragedies they witnessed and the friends they lost. Read moreShipyard deaths take toll on workers left to grapple with trauma, friends lost

DETYENS SHIPYARDS: Jocelyn Grzeszczak