Blind Navy
Blind Navy

‘I can’t read books’: Electric shock blinds father

A CAIRNS father of six, who lost most of his eyesight after receiving an electric shock on a navy vessel, has launched a $2.6m lawsuit against the two companies who hired him.

Eli Napatali, 40, was working as a labourer on HMAS Benalla in September 2014 when it was berthed at the Cairns Sugar Wharf near the navy base, using a pneumatic needle gun to remove rust and corrosion around a steel electrical conduit.

According to court documents the needle pierced the conduit and Mr Napatali received a shock from an electrical cable carrying 440 volts, throwing him against the rear wall of the enclosed space.

Eli Napatali has to rely on wife Olive after being left partially blind after receiving an electric shock. Picture: ALIX SWEENEY
Eli Napatali has to rely on wife Olive after being left partially blind after receiving an electric shock. Picture: ALIX SWEENEY

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Several days later his eyesight began to go and his vision is now permanently blurred, forcing him to quit work and become completely reliant on wife Olive.

"She's been the one doing most of the work now," Mr Napatali said from Townsville where the family moved about three years ago.

"With new places I've got to have my wife next to me when I go in," he said.

"I can't read books, I can't even read the newspaper and I loved reading that every day."

He can also no longer watch his children play sport or watch the subtitled martial arts movies he loved.

Mr Napatali said doctors have told him his eyesight might return and the deeply religious dad said he had "faith in God" it would, but his life had changed significantly.

Elie Napatali has launched a $2.6m lawsuit against two Cairns companies. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Elie Napatali has launched a $2.6m lawsuit against two Cairns companies. Picture: Alix Sweeney

He has launched legal action in the Cairns Supreme Court against Tropical Reef Shipyard Pty Ltd, which was contracted to perform the ship maintenance, and Staff Services Qld Pty Ltd, the labour company who hired him, claiming their negligence caused his injuries.

He is suing for a total of $2,641,556 based on past and future lost income and medical expenses. Legal practice manager Sandra Lim, from Shine Lawyers, representing Mr Napatali, said what had happened to him was "devastating".

"Eli is a labourer who will never again be able to perform that work and will struggle to find employment of any kind," she said.

"He's been robbed of the pleasures of parenthood, such as reading a book to his children or watching them play sport."

"Simple tasks like driving the kids to school or mowing the lawn are no longer possible for Eli and that is taking a psychological toll on him."

His legal team will allege the defendants should have known the electricity was still running in the airconditioning compartment where Mr Napatali was working and the training and supervision he received was inadequate.

The two companies were contacted for comment.

A court date is yet to be set.

Originally published as 'I can't read books': Electric shock blinds Cairns father


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