Working Through Grief

Most people agree that nothing and no one should be taken for granted.

But for many, that truth doesn’t become a reality until tragedy strikes – bad things do happen to good people and people’s lives are changed forever.

As 2007 neared its end, things were good for Bryan Williams, Terry Thompson and Eric Lovell. Bore Tek, the utility construction business they had started eight years before was thriving, and they had just started a project to install more than 15,000 feet of 24 inch diameter PVC water pipe on the biggest job they had undertaken. A big, new directional drilling unit had just arrived and would speed work on the big job and expand the company’s capabilities for future projects.

Then one bright morning Bryan Williams was killed on the way to work in a traffic accident. He was less than a mile from where the new drilling unit was about to make its first bore.

“Bryan and I go way back, long before we started the business,” said Terry Thompson. “This is a fast paced business and we didn’t always immediately agree on business decisions, but we were close enough that we could disagree without getting personal. The new machine arrived late one afternoon, and Bryan wanted to put it to work immediately. I said we have to have time to get it prepped, we need time. But he wanted to get it on the job right away.

“We name all our equipment, so that afternoon we kicked around names for the new machine, and Bryan liked ‘Drillzilla’ because it was the biggest drilling unit we had. When we were ready to leave for the day, I reached out and shook hands with Bryan and told him how much I appreciated him and everything he had done for the company.

“Naming that machine was probably the last decision he made for us, and a few hours later, he was dead.”

Dealing with tragedy (subhed)

Thompson called the site crew together and broke the news.

“We were in shock,” Thompson continued. “But a bore had been started that needed to be completed, and we were working on a tight schedule. We asked the guys what they wanted to do, and they said drill. So we went back to work the next day.”

That morning, the Bore Tek team met at the accident site. Pieces of Williams’ truck still were scattered over the ground. Someone found Williams watch in the grass more than 50 feet away from the impact point.

One employee’s mother is a seamstress, and he was asked to have her buy a bolt of black cloth, and company equipment along the road where pipe was being installed was draped in black. Two black flags were hung at half staff from utility poles on the work site.

Thompson and Lovell met with employees individually and discussed the situation and how the structure of the company would change. Through the initial period of shock, then grief, work somehow went on.

“We recognized everyone had to get through this emotionally while still taking care of business,” Thompson continued. “This was a critical project for us . . . everything was on the line. I know some business experts say there should be a distance between company management and employees, but we’re small enough that we are friends, and in a situation like this, it really helps to draw on the loyalty and support of everyone in the organization. It was a very intense time. Everyone’s reaction was very positive. It is amazing how hard they worked.”

Thompson said Williams’ sudden death completely changed his life.

“Bryan was a close friend to both Eric and I,” he said, “and he was the company’s front man. He was the contact with our clients. Eric and I took care of work in the field, Eric made sure we got paid and took care of finances. Many of our clients didn’t know who we were. Nothing I do work wise is the same as it was before.”

When the Johns Island job was finished, Bore Tek moved immediately to new projects.

“Basically we had run the business from the field for eight years,” said Thompson. “We really didn’t even have an office – everything was on Bryan’s laptop. Eric and I decided we needed to regroup and get organized. We developed a business plan that enables us to operate more efficiently. We are acquiring a site so our office and equipment yard will be in the same location.”

Currently Bore Tek is busy, new projects are coming in, and the company has a full workload.

“Bryan’s dedication over the years was evident to everyone who knew him,” concluded Thompson. “The three of us once pledged that whatever the challenge is, we would never, never, never give up. That was our only motto. It will not change.”