Survivors still waiting for treatment months after deadly industrial accident

Local News

Editor’s note: Less than 24 hours after this story aired, Gaspar was told he was approved for medical care and a psychologist. View the followup story here.

Three months after an industrial accident killed two people near Pearl Harbor, an attorney for the survivors says they are still not getting the proper medical care.

It happened in December at a Navy maintenance facility for inactive ships off Waipio Peninsula.

Officials say a five-ton buoy fell about 70 feet off a crane hitting the workers below. To this day, one of the injured workers is still waiting to get approval for knee surgery.

KHON2 spoke with Leto Gasper, a welder who’s been working for the company Healy Tibbitts for 18 years.

It’s not just his physical injuries that need attention. There are mental issues that need treatment after going through such a traumatic incident.

Gasper walks gingerly with a cane after being diagnosed with torn ligaments on his left knee. But the physical pain pales in comparison to the emotional trauma that keeps coming back to him.

“Every night when I close my eyes, I see the buoy coming towards me, because (there were) only three of us on top of the concrete block. I am the only one who survived on that day,” he said.

Gasper was standing on the same concrete floating block with the two men who died. He says they were not just co-workers, but close friends.

“Sometimes my wife, she wakes me up because I’m yelling like that,” he said.

Gasper says doctors have recommended that he see a psychologist, but he needs approval from the insurance company and that hasn’t happened.

He’s also waiting for approval to get knee surgery. These are procedures needed so he can get back to work.

“I want to go back to work, but I want to fix this one first before I come work. I love my company because I worked over there about 18 years,” he said.

Gasper’s attorney says he’s not sure if it’s the company Healy Tibbitts that’s holding up the treatment. The insurance company is Weeks Marine but he says there is a close affiliation between the two.

“They handle all of Healy Tibbitts claims nationally and you have to deal with those people,” explained attorney Jay Friedheim. “There’s a relationship. I don’t know the corporate papers of it, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck. They do all of Healy Tibbitts’ claims.”

Friedheim says treatment for two other workers is also not getting approved. He says he will meet with the labor department to discuss this. He’s also planning a lawsuit.

KHON2 tried to contact Healy Tibbitts about this story. A spokeswoman says the company is planning a response but it won’t be ready until Wednesday.

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