A Frankfort, Illinois man was killed while conducting pressure tests for Peoples Gas in Chicago Wednesday. According to Chicago Fire Department authorities, Mike Gryga, 41, and his fellow workers, also employees of Peoples Gas, were performing an air pressure test on a section of a 20-inch gas pipe in downtown Chicago below Jackson Boulevard and Wacker Drive at the time of the accident.
A Peoples Gas representative told the Frankfort Station newspaper that the incident did not involve an explosion and no natural gas was involved as far as the company could tell.
Witnesses told the Frankfort Station that they heard a loud pop, followed by dust billowing into the street.
“I was about 20 feet away from the hole when it blew, and there was a big cloud of dust and I noticed a construction helmet came flying out of the hole,” Kevin Spillers, who was standing across the street from the accident when it happened, told the Frankfort Station.
Spillers, who works as a trader at the Board of Trade in Chicago, jumped into the hole with a Peoples Gas employee and found Gryga laying on the ground unconscious but breathing. Grygas was covered in a few inches of sand. Another worker who was in the hole at the time of the accident was alert but bleeding and stunned.
“We uncovered [Gryga] and just sat with him and kept telling him to breathe,” Spillers told the Frankfort Station. “He was breathing very comfortably, and he was very calm … it was just like he was asleep.”
Sadly, Gryga’s breathing gradually slowed and stopped by the time fire trucks arrived, about 10 minutes after the accident.
Gryga, who was a father of high school twins, volunteered as an assistant coach of a local softball team. He was described by a fellow coach as “a good dad and a hard worker” who was always trying to get overtime pay with the gas company to provide for his family.
The accident remains under investigation.