January 16, 2017

Detectives investigating deaths of three men

Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detectives are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three men underground in a neighborhood of Key Largo.

The three men worked for Douglas N. Higgins, a construction company contracted to do the work by Monroe County. They were in an underground drainage pipe this morning when they collapsed.

A Key Largo firefighter who went down to rescue them also collapsed. He and two of the workers were brought up to the surface by firefighters and deputies on the scene. The two workers were confirmed dead at the scene; CPR was performed on the firefighter who was later airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center, where he is still being treated. The third worker’s body was brought to the surface this afternoon.

The deceased workers are identified as 34 year old  Elway Gray of Fort Lauderdale, 49 year old  Louis O’Keefe of Little Torch Key and 24 year old Robert Wilson of Summerland Key.

Three Sheriff’s deputies who were exposed to fumes taken to Mariner’s hospital for treatment.

Five households at the end of Long Key Road were evacuated .They were allowed to return home just after 2 p.m. after tests showed it was safe for them to do so.

A Miami-Dade County Hazmat team responded to assist with the scene. They performed tests in the pipe where the workers collapsed. Their tests revealed there was both Methane gas and Hydrogen Sulphide gas coupled with low levels of oxygen in the pipe.


The Medical Examiner’s Office responded and transported the bodies to their offices where autopsies will be performed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  is responding to the scene for their own investigation into the circumstances of the workers deaths.

6 comments:

  1. so sad and after first death seems others could have been more careful.... They responded not really thinking They wanted to help the others

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  2. I am sorry for the loss of the three workers who died from Hydrogen Sulfide exposure. I hope OSHA will put in place the proper training to prevent this from happening again. I was exposed to Hydrogen Sulfide in 2009 and it turned my world upside down. I did not find out for 8 days that I had been exposed but it was too late for medical treatment. I had continuous headaches for 9 months until I found a doctor who put me on a clinical trial drug that helped me manage my headaches. My exposure left me with many more medical problems that I had to deal with. I was exposed at age 53 and had to retire at 55 as a result of my medical condition. If any of your deputies, firefighters, or others continue to experience any medical conditions, I will be glad to share what knowledge I have of my post treatment. wclements74@gmail.com

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  3. there is no excuse for this. Knowledge of the effects of Hydrogen Sulfide - the dangers of, etc. have been well known for decades. Test should always be run before entry into a confined space. As a former safety manager (around 19800, I cannot imagine this happening today. Hydrogen Sulfide can be so strong that it will immediately knock out your sense of smell. Only a slight presence gives the odor of rotten eggs as was being detected in the wide open space of the community.

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  4. Oh my this is sooo sad my heart just sinks with sorrow... May our Heavenly Father bring comfort to all their loved ones and all who knew them... May you all draw close to each other in this time of loss and sorrow... May you find rest in Jesus' love and comfort for each of you, for He knows the pain and sorrow in your heart and He is holding you ever so close to His heart as you share your inner most thoughts with Him without even saying a word ... Just rest and let Him hold you all through this time of wondering why Lord, allow Him to be your strength when you have none, let Him be the shoulder you cry on, just let Him love you through this... you need not even say one word if you cannot, because He hears your heart of hearts... He loves you, He loves you, He loves you, just for being you...
    I am so sorry for your loss... I will continue to pray for all of you...
    Kathy Brown Toronto, Canada

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  5. Oh my this is sooo sad my heart just sinks with sorrow... May our Heavenly Father bring comfort to all their loved ones and all who knew them... May you all draw close to each other in this time of loss and sorrow... May you find rest in Jesus' love and comfort for each of you, for He knows the pain and sorrow in your heart and He is holding you ever so close to His heart as you share your inner most thoughts with Him without even saying a word ... Just rest and let Him hold you all through this time of wondering why Lord, allow Him to be your strength when you have none, let Him be the shoulder you cry on, just let Him love you through this... you need not even say one word if you cannot, because He hears your heart of hearts... He loves you, He loves you, He loves you, just for being you...
    I am so sorry for your loss... I will continue to pray for all of you...
    Kathy Brown Toronto, Canada

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  6. Obviously these workers were not properly trained in confined space entry, including the first responder or he would not have made entry without proper PPE. Totally inexcusable, The tragic death of one co-worker after another is seen so often in confined space entry, sad, but true.
    A sewer drain system is a permit required confined space, All should be marked as such & entrance's made to limit entry to authorized personal only. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc. Now, a permit required confined space will contain all of the above, plus one or more of the following: a substance that has the ability to engulf or asphyxiate the entrant. a potentially hazardous atmosphere. inwardly converging walls within the space or a floor that slopes downward, tapering to a small cross-section, in such a circumstance then a entry permit is to be issued to anyone authorizing work to be done in such space and all procedures out line on the entry permit are to be followed to the letter & are to be over seen by an entry supervisor,(certified in confined space entry & confined space rescue) He is to verify safe entry conditions after a hazard assessment review, a pre-job safety meeting with all parties involved. With proper PPE & continuous atmospheric monitoring a life line, a retrieval system, an attendant & as many certified rescuers as their are going to be workers within the confined space & the local fire dept. or emergency services have been notified of said entry & location, then the entry supervisor can make entry with the proper PPE on, a SCBA & a air monitoring device, then trained & certified as he is he makes further determinations on the safety of the scope of work being done within the confined space. It is my understanding entry could not be made throw the man hole with a SCBA worn properly on your back, this should have been address on the JSA,(job safety analysis sheet, part 1 on a confined space entry permit) SCBA's come in different sizes, a 4500 psi tank is larger than 2300 psi, an aluminum tank is smaller than a carbon fiber tank but heavier. My point is the right PPE is available & should have been provided by the employer but wasn't. My thought, complacency, on OSHA's part, not enough surprise inspections. Myself I think the agency must be pretty corrupt, I worked in heavy industry for over 40 years, yet I've only seen OSHA on the job sight 10 or 15 times in all those years, strange, and the times that I did see them, only when working for small companies, they would show up & always fined the piss out them, but you never see them mess with big businesses, state agencies, federal agencies or public utility work. The company, the supervisor & OSHA should all be charged with the deaths of these 3 men if the permit required confined space procedures were not followed.

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