A longshoreman by the name of David B. Weiland was killed after a light pole fell on his vehicle at the Norfolk International Terminals. My deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Weiland's friends and family.
This tragic industrial accident led to the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office officially investigating the accident for possible criminal negligence, according to the Daily Press. The Commonwealth investigation is separate from the federal investigation conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Mr. Weiland was in his 1998 Honda Civic when a straddle carrier, operated by another individual, entered the berth area of the terminal, hit the light pole causing it to break off and fall on the Civic.
The Virginia Supreme Court defines criminal negligence in terms of "gross negligence," stating conduct "is culpable or criminal when accompanied by acts of commission or omission of a wanton or willful nature, showing a reckless or indifferent disregard of the rights of others, under circumstances reasonably calculated to produce injury, or which make it not improbable that injury will be occasioned, and the offender knows, or is charged with the knowledge of, the probable result of his acts" (Bell v. Commonwealth 170 Va. at 611-12, 195 S.E. at 681).
So the investigation will need to determine if the individual in the straddle carrier was operating it recklessly and in a manner that would lead to injury or death.
This is the sixth fatal industrial accident at the state-owned marine terminals since 2005. There were 154 fatal industrial accidents including 27 deaths from "contact with objects and equipment" in 2008.
Many injured longshoremen lacked recent safety training in longshore operations, according to a study conducted by the Monthly Labor Review. In addition, some of the injured workers felt their accident could have been avoided pointing if preventive actions, methods, and/or procedures had been employed.