Three men collapsed and died while working underground on a road project in Key Largo Monday morning.
A law enforcement source told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench this was a chain reaction. One worker went into the manhole and collapsed because of gasses. A second worker went into rescue him and collapsed as well. The same thing happened to a third worker who tried to help him.
Ramsay said the men were overwhelmed by a combination of methane and hydrogen sulfide gas coming out of the 15-foot deep hole.
By the time a Key Largo firefighter climbed into the same hole near Lake Surprise in a desperate attempt to save the men, they were dead. And within seconds, the firefighter was also overcome by poisonous gas and was fighting for his life.
The hole, just wide enough to fit a body and about 15 feet deep, was filled with hydrogen sulfide and methane gas created from years of rotted vegetation. It was so poisonous, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said, that the firefighter was unconscious within seconds.
“Neighbors were complaining about a sewage backup,” Ramsay said. “So they went to investigate.”
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Clark said 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 Rick 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.”