Key Largo, FL – Three workers assigned to fix a roadway in the Florida Keys lost their lives this week after entering a confined space filled with hydrogen sulfide and methane gas created from years of rotted vegetation. The men descended a hole just wide enough to fit a body and about 15 feet deep that was so poisonous that a firefighter attempting rescue was knocked unconscious within seconds.
The Sheriff’s office reported that the workers went to investigate complaints from residents about what they thought was a sewage back up. The workers found a slight dip in the ground near the manhole cover at the end of the street.The first worker removed a manhole cover, went underground, and was uncommunicative. The second worker climbed down in search of his coworker and he, too, lost consciousness. The third man desperately climbed into the same hole to assist and was immediately overcome by fumes.
The deceased are Elway Gray, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Louis O’Keefe, 49, of Little Torch Key and Robert Wilson, 24, of Summerland Key. All three worked for a private Michigan-based roadwork contractor named Douglas N. Higgins.
The firefighter who attempted rescue was revived with CPR and is believed to be in a coma after the accident. The local sheriff’s office reports that the firefighter decided to enter the hole without his air pack because the hole was not wide enough to fit the man and his equipment.
Federal OSHA inspectors will investigate the deadly incident. The neighborhood was ordered evacuated until determined safe.
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