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  1. #1
    Forum Member RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    Default Campers watch in horror as men succumb to septic fumes

    You guys and gals be careful out there .... you never know what the next call has in store for you! A seemingly routine maintenance job unfortunately cost three lives. Hopefully the fourth man recovers.

    CanWest News Service

    Sunday, August 29, 2004

    MONT ST. HILAIRE, Que. -- Panicked campers were forced to watch in horror as three men died in succession after succumbing to toxic fumes from a septic ditch and collapsing in the sludge below.

    A fourth man tried to rescue the first three men, and also fell into the septic ditch, suffering multiple fractures before becoming overwhelmed by the fumes himself. He was pulled to safety, and remained in hospital Saturday, where he was listed in critical condition.

    The nightmare at the quiet campground, located about 30 kilometres from Montreal, didn't end there.

    In all, eight other rescuers --including local two firefighters -- were injured after inhaling the fumes and were later treated at local hospitals.

    Const. Ronald McInnis of the Quebec provincial police said when officers arrived, the scene was one of total pandemonium.

    "They (the police officers) wanted to go in but bystanders told them not to," McInnis said. "It was complete chaos and people were screaming and panicking."

    Andre Lalonde, whose trailer is located beside the toilets, witnessed the tragedy unfold from beginning to end.

    "It was a stupid accident," Lalonde said Saturday, standing by the hole, where three flower bouquets and a candle had been placed. "I can't describe it. (The men who died) were people who did everything for the campers."

    Lalonde managed to pull out the surviving man, but had to wait for the emergency crew for the others, as another rescue attempt meant certain death.

    Officials said the tragedy began to unfold around midnight Friday, when campground owner Rejean Royer, 56, and his son-in-law, Steve Villeneuve, 27, tried to unclog a sewage grate that was apparently causing the communal toilets to back up.

    Villeneuve climbed down a ladder first. When he unplugged the hole, he was overcome by hydrogen sulfide, a colourless but deadly gas that smells like rotten eggs.

    He lost consciousness, and when Royer tried to pull him out, he too collapsed. One of the campers, Alain Parent, 38, then went down the ladder in an attempt to save the pair and suffered a similar fate, police said.

    Autopsies to be performed today or early this week will determine whether the three died from exposure to the chemicals, which can choke off the oxygen in the brain and lungs, or from drowning in toxic effluent.

    Known as the deadliest manure gas, only one breath containing hydrogen sulfide can be enough to cause a person to lose consciousness. In high enough concentrations, the gas can also cause the lungs to be paralysed.

    Michel Chalifoux, the president of Fosses Septiques Sani Laurentides which cleans septic tanks, said this kind of accident is extremely rare.

    Workers today will go into a tank only with a special ventilation system that pumps in fresh air, with oxygen masks, and with gauges to measure the concentration of certain gases. If the concentration is too high, an alarm will sound, Chalifoux said.

    "But if those precautions weren't taken, and given the high level of humidity, they couldn't have had much time to react," Chalifoux said. "It's tragic."

    An investigator from Quebec provincial workers health and safety board was checking whether proper procedure had been followed, while provincial police were trying to talk to as many witnesses as possible.

    The septic tank was still cordoned off with yellow police tape by late afternoon Saturday. Piled to the side of the tank were the tools used in the fatal attempt at maintenance: A ladder, a length of rope, metal rods, and a tool belt.

    "Rejean was a hero," said Lalonde, who saw the campground owner's lifeless body pulled out from the hole, arms and legs tangled in the ladder.

    "He didn't hesitate before trying to save his son-in-law."

    © Times Colonist (Victoria) 2004
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Sheri
    IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
    Honorary Flatlander

    RAY WAS HERE FIRST


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Default

    We've seen these types of incidents so many times before. It is a real shame because a little education on this topic can go a long way.

    "An investigator from Quebec provincial workers health and safety board was checking whether proper procedure had been followed"
    Apparently not, as the first step in working in a confined space or septic system is an air quality measurement.

    It is really sad to see this happen not only to the campground operators (who really should have known better), but then to an innocent camper who obviously had no clue to the hazards.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

    IACOJ

  3. #3
    Forum Member RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    Default

    Yeah that statement jumped out at me too.

    So did this one:
    Piled to the side of the tank were the tools used in the fatal attempt at maintenance: A ladder, a length of rope, metal rods, and a tool belt.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Sheri
    IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
    Honorary Flatlander

    RAY WAS HERE FIRST

  4. #4
    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    Default

    From memory didn't NIOSH report that over 60% of fatalities in confined spaces are from "would-be" rescuers????

    Hits home the hazards....
    Luke

  5. #5
    Forum Member SafetyPro's Avatar
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    Default

    Originally posted by lutan1
    From memory didn't NIOSH report that over 60% of fatalities in confined spaces are from "would-be" rescuers????

    Hits home the hazards....
    As a former confined space instructor (entry, not rescue), that's correct. Which of course means that for every "worker" that dies in a confined space, more than one "rescuer" dies as well. The situation described in this article of two, three or even more people dying in successive efforts to rescue a worker (and subsequent downed rescuers) is unfortunately very common. Many people forget that there are plenty of invisible hazards (like H2S and low oxygen levels) that can kill you in these spaces.

    And just as a reminder, H2S can be present in a lot of spaces besides septic systems. Decomposing leaves and other organic material in a utility vault or storm drain can create hazardous levels as well.
    Chris Gaylord
    Emergency Planner / Fire Captain, UC Santa Cruz FD

  6. #6
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Default

    This isn't even a "confined space" training issue.

    This is the same situation as the people who fall through the ice...when trying to rescue a dog that fell through the ice.

    "So, tell me, what what made you think that the ice that couldn't support an 80 pound dog would support your 150 pounds?"

    It's that same tunnel vision that gets that 3rd + guy going into the hole. "So, tell me, if two people were already passed out in the hole, what made you think you wouldn't pass out?"
    IACOJ Canine Officer
    20/50

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Default

    An updated story was just posted in the front page.

    Montreal Firefighter Dies in Failed Rescue

    This is too much. It was bad enough when we presumed it was an uninformed bystander, but for a trained city firefighter to walk right into this trap is just so frustrating.

    My condolences and prayers go out for his family.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

    IACOJ

  8. #8
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Default

    Rest in Peace, Brother.....

  9. #9
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    Angry

    This was 100% preventable, I don't know what training our brothers from the North get but no firefighter should die this way.
    As stated before 60% of CS deaths are would be rescuers and 80% + of CS deaths are from bad air.
    Technical rescue awareness is a required class for all new cadets and all of us should have it. Their is no excuse for this happening, while I feel for the family both at home and at the station, this death was just stupidity.

    Find a TRA class and go to it.

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