John Williams Jr.’s life changed irrevocably in 2014 when he was involved in a horrific crane accident while working at VT Halter shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Williams, an experienced crane operator, lost a significant portion of his skull, his vision and his independence. He suffered permanent, severe brain damage that left him with the mental capacity of a child. Wanda, his wife of almost 20 years, must now take care of him. Their love remains strong, but they have lost the life and relationship they once knew.
The Williamses consider themselves among “the lucky ones.” Seventy-six workers died in the private shipyard building and repair industry from 2005 to 2015, and hundreds more, such as John Williams, were injured. VT Halter has been fined repeatedly by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for serious safety lapses, but Williams’ former employer continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the U.S. government. And despite a jury finding that VT Halter bore the most responsibility for Williams’ accident, the family could not sue the company because of a federal workers’ compensation law.
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