Winch accident leads to shrimp-boat worker’s death

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Coast Guard officials said the U.S. Department of Labor's Alabama office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were called in to help review the death of a 15-year-old shrimp boat worker.

Authorities told Fox 10 television that 15-year-old Steven Branch, of Bayou La Batre, Ala., was killed Aug. 11 while working on the shrimp boat Nettie Q off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Coast Guard officials said Branch died after getting stuck in a winch. A winch is a device that pulls in and lets out cable for hauling in shrimp.

"The individual had baggy shorts and his shorts had got caught up into the capstan or the drum of the winch that pulled lines. He was actually pulled into the winch and suffered a head injury,” Coast Guard Lt. Mike Clausen told the TV station.

It’s unclear whether Branch was working with the device or standing near it.

Shrimpers said the winch is the most dangerous piece of equipment on a boat.

Dominick Seafood owner Dominick Ficarino told the TV station that only experienced boaters should work the winch.

“It is important we try to train the guys. [It’s] years and years on deck before we ever allow them to get on the winch because, like I said, it is extremely dangerous,” Ficarino said.

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