Two Workers Die from Methane Gas

Sept. 28, 2000
Two men working to clear a sewer line were killed Tuesday when they were overcome by methane gas. Henderson Fire Battalion Chief Robert Maroney said his department responded to the area near Gibson Road and Painted Daisy Avenue at approximately 12:15 p.m. when it was reported the two private contractors were trapped in a manhole.

BY Ryan Oliver, REVIEW-JOURNAL, www.lvrj.com

HENDERSON, Nev., Sept. 27, 2000. — Two men working to clear a sewer line were killed Tuesday when they were overcome by methane gas. Henderson Fire Battalion Chief Robert Maroney said his department responded to the area near Gibson Road and Painted Daisy Avenue at approximately 12:15 p.m. when it was reported the two private contractors were trapped in a manhole.

"When we got there we could see the two workers collapsed in the manhole," Maroney said. "We found both victims without a pulse. At that point, it became a recovery operation for us." Witnesses told fire officials one of the men was clearing rocks and debris from a clogged sewer line. Officials say a methane gas build-up seeped out and reduced the manhole's oxygen level. The worker was quickly overwhelmed and lost consciousness, Maroney said.

A second worker then climbed into the hole to pull the man out, but he too collapsed. A third worker called rescuers. Maroney said the two men were down there for approximately 20 minutes before firefighters using self-contained breathing apparatus equipment could reach them.

"This a common hazard for this kind of work, but it's an unusual event that you have two people die," he said. Maroney added that his department would not send its firefighters into a narrow, underground tunnel without some sort of breathing equipment.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be conducting an investigation into the deaths. Both men worked as subcontractors for Henderson-based Developers of Nevada, according to an OSHA official who did not want to be identified. The official declined to name the subcontractor that employed the two men.

"OSHA is conducting an investigation," the OSHA official said. "We responded immediately and began our investigation and we expect to complete it in as timely manner as we can to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"The identities of the two men are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Review-Journal writer Tanya Flanagan contributed to this report.

Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1997 - 2000

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