NEW BERN - Owners of a 1930s crane barge dismissed a demolition crew working on the hurricane-damaged vessel this month, alleging alcohol at the site and multiple safety concerns.
The crane sits on top of a sunken barge, pummeled by Hurricane Irene more than a year ago. The wreckage is found in the shadow of the Neuse River Bridge, about a quarter mile from Downtown New Bern.
Independent contractor Shawn Persinger was initially hired in April to raise the barge. After four months and more than $15,000 spent on the project, the barge owner, Vican Trading, demanded Persinger and his crew leave the site.
In an interview Wednesday, Persinger said he and another supervisor brought beer to the site, but no laborers were drunk on the job.
"The crew doesn't drink," Persinger said at his home. "[The manager and I] were not working, we were just managing... So what?"
Virginia-based Delta Demolition Group Inc. replaced the Carteret County contractor in early August. Delta Operations Manager Derek Wooden said in a phone interview Wednesday Persinger's team was not equipped with proper safety equipment.
"Any business doesn't want to start violating safety precautions," Wooden said. "Let alone in the construction or demolition industry."
Persinger admitted he did not follow all safety procedures, precautions he said were unnecessary.
"I didn't have my guys in hard hats like I should have," Persinger said in response to the allegations. "But they were pumping water. They don't need hard hats to do that."
A written contract was never made between the Carteret contractor and Vican Trading. Persinger said a verbal contract was made with the barge's first owner, Damco Inc. of New Bern. Dramco then sold the barge to Vican, a scrap metal brokerage headquartered in Montréal.
Persinger has retained an attorney, and said he deserves to be paid for the four months of work completed before his dismissal. The barge is still not out of the Neuse River, and is set to be further dismantled Friday.