Three utility workers died Monday morning in a Key Largo, Fla., subdivision after being sent into an underground drainage trench to inspect a dip in a newly paved Key Largo road.
The workers, identified as Elway Gray, 34, of Fort Lauderdale; Louis O’Keefe, 49, of Little Torch Key; and Robert Wilson, 24, of Summerland Key, were employed by D.N. Higgins, which had been contracted by Monroe County.
According to the Keys Reporter, the men entered a 15-foot drainage hole to inspect the dip in the road when they were overcome by a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and methane gas.
A Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department firefighter who entered the hole to rescue the men was also overcome by the gas and had to be extricated from the hole by a second firefighter who was able to fit in the trench with an air supply.
The injured firefighter was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami in serious condition where Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said he is “fighting for his life.”
Two Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene were taken to Mariners Hospital in the Keys for observation. People in the immediate area were evacuated due to a potential gas leak.
Sheriff Ramsay told the Keys Reporter that drainage holes typically contain vents to prevent a buildup of gas, but the hole the utility workers entered showed no signs of venting. He told the Keys Reporter that the Monroe County Sheriff’s detectives will be investigating the incident alongside the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
According to the Keys Reporter, OSHA cited D.N. Higgins in 2002 for a number of safety violations after inspecting a manhole project in Marco Island, Fla.
According to the Keys Reporter, “The citation said, among other violations, that atmospheric testing wasn’t performed; a confined space entry program wasn’t implemented; confined space entry permits weren’t implemented by a qualified person; a rescue plan wasn’t implemented; rescue services weren’t available in a timely manner; and rescue equipment wasn’t available at the site.”
Source: Keys Reporter