BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The husband of a woman who died following an accident at the Century Aluminum plant back in December 2020 says he wants more answers about what led to the deadly incident.
Naomi Cleaton, 63, died from injuries she sustained after being struck by a forklift at the plant, according to Berkeley County Coroner George Oliver.
“That morning, what I usually do is I get up in the morning with my wife, she gets up around five o’clock in the morning to go to work, and we talk as usual. I told her that I love her, and I’ll see her when she comes home,” said Dennis Lebron Willis.
That was the last time Willis saw his wife. A relative stopped by to break the news about his wife.
“She said, Mr. Willis, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your wife is dead. She got killed at work. I said no, not my wife- she said yes.”
Cleaton died around 2:15 p.m.
Willis started to drive to the plant, but the coroner, Century’s HR rep, and a chaplain met him at a gas station in Bonneau. He told the coroner he wanted to see his wife.
“He said no Mr. Willis you don’t want to see your wife. He said you want to remember her the way she was, and he made a statement stuck out of my head- he said to me he said I don’t think there’s any funeral home they could put her back together. That bothered me,” he said.
Willis said the Century HR rep also asked something that bothered him.
“The one thing that HR said that bothered me, I can hear it, he said Mr. Willis, are you and your wife having any problem? I looked at him and it was unusual that he would ask a question like that,” he recalled.
Willis believes the accident involving his wife may have never happened if the company had been more focused on safety.
“Me and my wife talk about everything. And we talk about everything that goes on at the plant. And she said they want this girl to learn how to drive this big fork truck and the girls scared to death about it and the girl didn’t want to drive the truck.”
Willis said he understands that is who was driving the fork truck at the time of the accident. He is also frustrated that he still has not received worker’s comp, even though the accident was caught on video.
“It’s an open and shut case. It seems like somebody would’ve done something to try and speed things along,” he said.
He has filed a workman’s comp lawsuit, but he wants answers about how an accident like this could happen.
“They should have to get up and testify why did this situation happen. I feel that somebody needs to get up and say something so this won’t happen to somebody else.”
Mr. Willis said he plans to release additional information about this case to the media in the future.