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Triumph and tragedy

Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, speaks to an audience of Navy personnel, politicians, Nichols Brothers employees and others with a vested interest during a ceremony honoring Saturday’s christening of the X-Craft Sea Fighter. - Gayle Saran
Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, speaks to an audience of Navy personnel, politicians, Nichols Brothers employees and others with a vested interest during a ceremony honoring Saturday’s christening of the X-Craft Sea Fighter.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

During final preparations Monday to launch an experimental Navy combat ship, an accident at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders killed one company employee and injured two others.

According to a news release from the company, the accident occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. Monday. At that time, a crane was lifting a small drone helicopter from the hold of the Nichols Built X-Craft Sea fighter onto the flight deck of -foot, 1,000-ton ship. Jan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Island County Sheriff’s Office, said an eye bolt on top of the helicopter’s rotor spindle broke, dropping the Grumman-manufactured drone approximately 8 feet.

The accident killed William Dayton, 22, of Coupeville, said Robert Bishop, Island County’s coroner. Bishop said Dayton was standing underneath the nose of the 2,800 pound drone when it fell.

He said the official cause of Dayton’s death is unknown. An autopsy is planned for today to determine the official cause of death.

Two other workers were injured in the accident, Smith said. She said the two were listed in “satisfactory” condition at Whidbey General Hospital as of Monday. The names of the two injured workers were not available from the sheriff’s office or Nichols Brothers Boat Builders.

Bryan Nichols, Nichols Brother business development president, could not be reached for comment on the accident.

A Nichols Brothers press release issued Monday stated that the boatyard would close while an investigation is conducted. The closure occurs as the company was preparing to launch the X-Craft this week.

The company also planned to have grief counseling for employees Tuesday.

“There is deep sorrow and regret that there were two injuries and one fatality,” the press release stated.

The state’s Department of Labor and Industries and the Island County Sheriff’s office is handling the investigation.

Jan Smith said at this time that investigators do not believe anyone is at fault in the accident.

“There does not appear to be any suspicious circumstances, it’s just an industrial accident,” Smith said.

At the time of the accident, Grumman representatives were reportedly directing the movement of the drone with assistance from Nichols Brothers employees, Smith said.

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