Low Levels of Oxygen Detected in Deadly New York Manhole

September 9, 2010

Oxygen levels were dangerously low in a Tarrytown, New York manhole where a sewer worker collapsed and died and a firefighter died trying to save him, a fire department official said.

Autopsies were planned in hopes of learning what killed Anthony Ruggiero, 48, and John Kelly, 51, in a sewer system manhole, village administrator Michael Blau said. Tarrytown is 24 miles north of New York City.

Blau said Ruggiero, who was with the Department of Public Works, was checking a report of a sewer backup and Kelly, a volunteer firefighter, was assisting him. The manhole was behind a fire station.

Ruggiero collapsed in the manhole and Kelly went down to help him but also collapsed, Mayor Drew Fixell said. It took 15 to 20 minutes to get them out. They were pronounced dead at Westchester Medical Center.

Assistant Fire Chief John McGee said a hazardous materials team measured the oxygen level at 14 percent after the men were pulled out. The normal amount of oxygen in air is about 21 percent.

“Below 20.8, you’re in the danger zone,” McGee said.

McGee said he did not know if deadly gases were detected.

Blau said neither man was wearing a protective mask. Most protocols for manhole work require masks in situations where the danger is unknown. But Blau said he could not say if Ruggiero and Kelly should have had masks on.

“We’ll be checking that,” he said.

He said the deaths were being investigated by federal, state and local agencies.

McGee said Ruggiero and Kelly were “great guys. They’d do anything for you.”

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.