Three workers die in underground pipeline in Florida

Posted at 3:13 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 15:13:45-05

The job should have been routine. Tasked with checking out an underground pipeline beneath a newly paved road, a Florida utility worker lifted a manhole cover and climbed down.

He didn’t make it back alive.

Neither did another worker who went to check on his colleague — neither did a third man who went in after them both.

The three construction company employees died from a toxic combination of gases in the underground pipeline in Key Largo, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. A firefighter who attempted to save the men also collapsed seconds after entering the manhole.

He was brought back to the surface and flown to a hospital. Three sheriff’s deputies also were taken to the hospital.

Resident: Area smelled ‘like rotten eggs’

Tests performed by hazmat teams on the pipeline found a high concentration of methane gas and hydrogen sulfide gas, along with low levels of oxygen, according to the sheriff’s office.

The deaths are under further investigation by the sheriff’s office and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The three men who died worked for a construction company and were checking on a sewage backup, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay told the Miami Herald.

The bodies of three workers were recovered on Monday. The men were identified as 34-year-old Elway Gray, 49-year-old Louis O’Keefe, and 24-year-old Robert Wilson.

A resident told CNN affiliate WPLG that the area has smelled like rotten eggs for the past couple of months.