Wharfie's mother loses son and friend

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013
Harley Ritchie
John Kirk-Anderson

FROM LEFT: Michelle Ritchie, Helen Dungey and Harley Ritchie.

Warren Ritchie
Supplied
CRUSHED: Warren Ritchie was killed while on a ship in Lyttelton.

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The nephew of a wharfie killed at Lyttelton Port snapped his leg "clean in half" while working in a similar role there earlier this year.

Warren Ritchie, an employee of Lyttelton Stevedoring Services, was crushed while working on a ship moored at the port on Saturday.

Maritime NZ said Ritchie, 49, was struck on the head by a crane grab in the ship's hold while unloading fertiliser.

LSS manager Alex Stewart said the company was co-operating with Maritime NZ's investigation.

"It is pointless losing a life and not gaining anything from it," he said. "He was in the wrong place. Why was he in the wrong place?"

Ritchie's death is the second at Lyttelton in a month.

Bill Frost, 58, died while working on No 2 Wharf at Port Lyttelton on November 26.

He was pinned between a logging truck trailer and a forklift.

WorkSafe NZ is investigating.

The incidents prompted two maritime unions to voice health and safety concerns.

Ritchie's mother, Helen Dungey, said Frost was her friend.

"That was tragic . . . and now Warren. They have got to look into [safety at the port] and they will," she said.

"It has taken my boy's death to wake them up."

Ritchie's nephew Harley Ritchie, 22, was also injured at Lyttelton Port on August 5.

He said his left leg was crushed after a chain gave way while he was unloading steel beams onto the wharf.

"I thought the whole pile was going to crush me. It snapped my tibia and fibula clean in half," he said.

Ritchie said he was employed on a casual contract by another stevedoring company at the time of his accident.

A stevedore is a labourer who loads and unloads vessels in a port.

Ritchie's injury and his uncle's death had left him questioning the level of training stevedore staff received at the port.

Dungey said her son was a "lovely, gentle" man who grew up in Lyttelton and joined the merchant navy as a deckhand at 15.

"Everyone loved Warren. He was a very gentle man. He just liked to sit outside, have a fag and watch the sea," she said.

A spokeswoman for Maritime NZ said a scene examination had been completed and witnesses were being interviewed.

She said equipment failure was not believed to be a factor in Ritchie's death. There was also no "causal link" between Saturday's incident and Frost's death.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive Peter Davie said stevedore companies were responsible for their employees' safety.

"There will always be changes and improvements we can make, but [the stevedore employers] are tasked with making sure that happens," he said.

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