KEY LARGO, Fla. - Three workers in the Florida Keys died Monday morning (Jan 16) after they were overcome by fumes, authorities said. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said they responded to reports of three people down. The victims were working at a road project.
A representative said a worker went inside a drainage manhole to see why the newly-paved Long Key Road was settling at that location. She said the worker got trapped inside the manhole and three other workers, a volunteer firefighter with Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department and two Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies tried to help get him out.
The two workers who collapsed and the firefighter, who also collapsed after going underground, were pulled from the hole, authorities said. The two workers were pronounced dead at the scene. It took authorities several hours to recover the body of the third worker. The firefighter and deputies were taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
The firefighter, identified by relatives as Leonardo Moreno, was then airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he is listed in critical condition.
"A firefighter had an air pack on," Monroe County Sheriff Ramsey said. "He found the hole too small, so he elected to take his air pack off and go inside the hole to attempt the rescue."
The deputies are being treated for non-life-threatening ailments. A fourth worker for the contractor was treated at the scene.
Cause of deaths will be determined by the Monroe County medical examiner.
A woman who lives near the manhole told Local 10 News that the area has smelled of rotten eggs for the past couple of months.
The contracted workers were in a 15-foot hole and it's believed that a build-up of hydrogen sulfide and methane is to blame for the deaths.
"There's no sign of any pre-venting going in, and obviously going into a contained environment where there is gases can be deadly, as we unfortunately found out today," Ramsey said.
Records show that the contractor was fined for an incident at a manhole in Collier County in 2002. In that case, OSHA said workers were exposed to hazardous conditions.
UPDATE: We are glad to report that the firefighter involved in this incident has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own with no neurological deficits shown so far. This information is according to the latest update on his gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/leomorenoSOURCES: WPLG Local10.com and Firefighter Nation.