Vacationing Montreal Firefighter Dies Trying to Save Men in Septic Tank

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MONTREAL (CP) -- Flags flew at half-mast outside Montreal fire stations Monday in honour of Capt. Alain Parent, a firefighter who died trying to rescue two men from a campground septic tank.

Firefighters had planned a party for Parent this Thursday to celebrate the 38-year-old's new job as captain at a fire station in Old Montreal. But now they are getting ready for his funeral.

``He was a good guy,'' said Capt. Guy Trudeau, Parent's friend and former boss. ``He was always ready to help. That's why he stepped in (at the campground).''

Parent had been vacationing with his girlfriend and two daughters, age 9 and 11, at Camping du Lac Repos in St-Jean-Baptiste-de-Rouville, about 40 kilometres east of Montreal. His girlfriend's parents had a spot at the campground.

Cries for help rang out Saturday night after campground owner Rejean Royer, 56, and his son-in-law, Steve Villeneuve, 27, were overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes inside a septic tank they were trying to unblock.

The off-duty firefighter entered the tank to try to help the men but was overcome by the poisonous air.

Parent died alongside Royer and Villeneuve, the two men he was trying to save.

Another man, Sebastien Tremblay, was critically injured in the accident. Eight people, including two St-Jean-Baptiste firefighters, were sent to hospital after inhaling the fumes during the rescue effort.

The concentration of hydrogen sulfide vapour in the tank is estimated to have been 500 to 1,000 parts per million. A special mask, which Parent didn't have, is needed if the concentration exceeds 10 parts per million.

``He knew the danger, but as a human being, he responded,'' Trudeau said.

Lieut. Serge Goyette, one of Parent's former colleagues, met Parent when they started firefighting school together 18 years ago.

``He was an exceptional fireman,'' Goyette said of his friend. ``He was a good leader, a positive leader. He didn't judge people.''

The firefighters have been deeply affected by Parent's death, he said.

``People aren't talking. They have to digest this thing. Even if you want to talk together, you have to go to work.''

AP via Montreal Gazette

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