Thursday, May 24, 2018
Public safety

One dead, one still hospitalized after inhaling toxic gas

TAMPA — A man exposed to toxic gas Thursday evening at the city's wastewater treatment plant at the Port of Tampa has died, police said Friday.

Jesus Jimenez, 33, died after the industrial accident, while about a dozen co-workers and city firefighters were treated at Tampa General Hospital.

"We are very saddened to hear of the death of Mr. Jimenez and our thoughts and prayers are with the Jimenez family during this difficult time," the Port of Tampa said in a statement released late Friday.

Still hospitalized in good condition Friday was Jacinto Pulido, 31. Police said four other workers were treated and released from Tampa General Hospital: Ghoulam Ali Feiz, 58; Steven Carbeck, 47; Fred Stein, 45; and Miguel Batchlor, no age given. No other information was available on any of the men.

Police said the workers, employees of Lanzo Lining Services, which has offices in Deerfield Beach, were working to get a 96-inch sewer pipe ready for a new liner at the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The liner protects the pipe and extends its useful life, officials said, but first it must be cleaned, which is what the workers were doing when they were overcome by fumes.

About 7 p.m., two workers became ill while inside the sewer pipe. Two other workers went down into the pipe to help them, and they, too, were overcome. The remaining workers attempted to render aid to the other four, but were also affected by the fumes.

During the ensuing rescue, six Tampa firefighters were also affected by the fumes and were treated at Tampa General and released.

At 11 p.m., a Tampa Fire Rescue hazardous materials team conducted meter readings of the area surrounding the incident. Hazmat reported normal readings for hydrogen sulfide — a gas that officials suspect the workers had inhaled — but said the pipe and excavation area would need further evaluation.

On Friday, police were working with investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine the source of the fumes.

OSHA describes hydrogen sulfide — also known as sewer gas — as a colorless, flammable and extremely hazardous substance common in wastewater treatment. It can smell of rotten eggs and irritate the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system at low concentrations. High concentrations can cause shock and convulsions and can stop a person's breathing.

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