Workforce, investigative resources come together for help, healing and answers after tragedy

Always Investigating

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The shooting at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard sent shockwaves through the military and civilian workforces from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. A broad network of support services was rolled out immediately after the incident to help victims, families, and coworkers. Many connected to the shipyard and the military say the reverberations will be felt for quite some time.

As people begin to process how could this happen in Hawaii, Always Investigating sought answers about what transpired, and what help is out there to sort out the impact and the repercussions.

According to base officials, watchstanders serve as sentries for vessels when in port or in drydock. The watchstander is typically a member of a ship’s or submarine’s own crew, and watchstanders are armed during their patrol. Other joint-base officials provide security at gates or as roving patrols. As shots rang out from firearms in the hands of a sailor stationed to the USS Columbia on Wednesday afternoon, a convergence of law enforcement reached the scene while base went into lockdown mode.

Jamie Hiranaka is president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 121, the union that represents shipyard workers. She been at the hospital with the survivor and told KHON2: “We are thankful that our third member is in stable condition and IFPTE Local 121 wishes our member a speedy recovery.”

As for the thousands of other shipyard workers at the site – which is one of Hawaii’s largest employers — Hiranaka says: “Some were witnesses, others heard the gunshots, others locked down into the closest building they could find but most were locked in their offices not knowing was happening. ”

Base officials tell me law enforcement interviewed about 100 witnesses Wednesday night.

Hiranaka calls it “an experience that will forever be ingrained in the minds of our members and all the workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Many emotions were felt yesterday but most were of fear, terror, sadness, and grief.

The tragedy comes near the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. KHON2 spoke with Herb Elfring, a 97-year-old survivor who came in all the way from Jackson, Michigan, for the anniversary.

KHON2 asked Elfring: “When you heard of the events what did you think?”

“It’s going on all over the world right now,” Elfring said. “You just don’t know where it’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen. It’s a crazy, crazy situation. You definitely would not expect this to happen on a base like this.”

KHON2 asked Elfring: “Does it make a mark on the upcoming celebrations?”

“It’s bound to have some effect I suppose,” Elfring said, “but I am sure we will carry on.”

Carry on, Elfring says, just as they had to in the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

“It was a very quiet Sunday morning at our camp,” Elfring recalls about Dec. 7, 1941, when he was stationed at an Army camp down the shore from Pearl Harbor, “but we could hear some bombing and so forth going on down toward Pearl Harbor. We could hear the bombing but couldn’t really see  much of what was going on and just thought it was another exercise.”

That quickly changed.

“The first Zero airplane came over and strafed the camp, and I was right by the corner of our barracks reading the bulletin board, when that line of strafing shells went right past me about 15 feet away,” Elfring recalls. “I looked up and saw that airplane with a red ball on the fuselage that I know it wasn’t our airplane, it was the Japanese plane.”

“Everybody did their own part I guess you might say, and we jumped from peacetime to wartime basis in a hurry,” Elfring said. “Everyone played their part.”

Elfring said everyone will play their part again to rebound from the latest tragedy.

The shipyard workers’ parent union out of Washington, D.C., said in a statement: “No worker should have to go to work without the expectation of safely returning to their family and loved ones.”

The union and their partner trades council have been tending to members during the aftermath including being with the surviving victim at the hospital.

Per the survivor’s wishes, we are not identifying him at this time.

The shipyard-affiliated trades Council said in a statement  “Our Hawaii Metal Trades Council is a tight-knit community. The repercussions of this senseless tragedy will surely be felt for a long time to come. Federal workers are the backbone of our country. They deserve to be safe at work.”

As for military personnel, they have access to crisis resources and a special crisis services set up at the Military Family Support Center near the base. The base spokesperson tells me it is being handled by staff counselors.

We asked if there was any record of any workplace complaints, threats or bullying previously between the shooter and any of the victims, or any disciplinary record of past incidents. The base spokesperson did not have any specifics from the investigation to disclose at this time.

The state labor department tells us they expect this will remain a solely federal investigation, even though local civilian employees were affected. We will continue to follow up on new findings from the federal investigations.

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