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1 Dead, 2 Sick Due To Mysterious Gas

Fri, 07/30/2010 - 4:22am

SEWICKLEY, Pa. (AP) — A sewage plant employee became faint and died Thursday while working in a 30-foot hole, and three other people who tried to rescue him were overcome by an unknown gas and had to be hospitalized, officials said.

Jack Hogan, 31, of Baden, was the worker who died, said Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery. Hogan, who was hired in June, was married and his wife gave birth to a child about eight weeks ago, Flannery said.

"The borough family's taken a real loss," Flannery said. "It's a sad day for all of us."

Hogan was working in the hole and fell back into it as he was trying to climb out shortly before 1 p.m., Flannery said. Hogan radioed for help after becoming faint, said Tom Rabickow, a forensic supervisor with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office.

Flannery said the plant's supervisor, Dennis Mike; an inspector for the borough's engineering firm; and a construction worker for a contractor climbed into the hole to help Hogan. All three were overcome by fumes, he said.

They were taken to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. One of the sickened workers, Shawn Haynes, of Bentleyville, was released Thursday evening and told KDKA-TV that he was overcome by gas.

"As soon as I got down in there, I tapped one of the other guys that came down on the back, said I wasn't feeling so well and that's all I remember," Haynes said. "They said I dropped like a ton of bricks."

Franklin Pounds Sr. told the TV station that his 42-year-old son, Franklin Pounds Jr., of New Castle, fell about 20 feet after being overcome by gas.

"They think he broke his leg, some ribs and they have him on oxygen," Pounds said outside the hospital.

It's unclear what the fumes were or where they originated, but Flannery said emergency workers did detect a small amount of methane gas when they arrived.

"It appears to be some sort of sewer gas," Flannery said.

The medical examiner was investigating and it was not immediately clear if the fumes that overcame the others contributed to or caused Hogan's death, Flannery said.

The plant, owned by the borough, is still in operation, Flannery said. Construction will continue Monday on a $5 million upgrade that Hogan was working on with the others.

Sewickley is about 10 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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