The deaths of two men killed by noxious fumes in September appear to be leading toward a wrongful death lawsuit against the village of Tarrytown. The incident reportedly occurred when a Department of Public Works employee died while attempting to remove a clog from a sewer pipe. A second man, a firefighter, then died trying to save the public works employee.
The incident gave rise to a Department of Labor investigation that found the village had failed to take properly safeguard their workers. In addition to the likely wrongful death lawsuits, the incident is also likely to result in some disciplinary action against supervisors who were either on the scene or were responsible for implementing procedures that would have prevented the tragedy.
On the day of the incident, a number of public works employees had been attempting to remove a clog from a sewer drain near a firehouse. After the initial attempts at clearing the clog failed, the workers opened a nearby manhole. At some point, one of the public works employees either fell in or climbed down into the hole to remove the clog. A nearby firefighter climbed down to save the first man, but noxious fumes from the sewer ended up killing them both.
The Department of Labor investigation concluded that proper precautions had not been followed in dealing with the sewer clog. For instance, the air inside the sewer should have been tested for fumes before anyone entered the hole, and breathing apparatus should have been worn while conducting the work. The village was reportedly cited for four serious or willful safety violations in failing to provide necessary safety training and for the failure of supervisors to stop the men from going down into the sewer without precautions.
Tarrytown has hired an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation of the incident in order to determine what sort of disciplinary or personnel actions might be taken. The families of the two deceased workers have reportedly filed notices of claim, which is the first step in ultimately filing a wrongful death claim against the village.
Source: The Journal News, Tarrytown probes manhole deaths to decide disciplinary action, Shawn Cohen 12/24/10