Failure To Follow Safety Rules Causes Tragedy in Tarrytown

When Anthony Ruggiero responded to a call about a sewer backup behind a firehouse in Tarrytown, New York, he arrived with two co-workers, opened up the manhole cover and saw the blockage. But instead of waiting for air monitoring equipment, Ruggiero went into the manhole and immediately fell unconscious to the bottom of the 15-foot manhole.

Tarrytown fire-fighter John Kelly went into the manhole to save Ruggiero, but Kelly also fell unconscious. By the time the two men were pulled out of the manhole by fire-fighters wearing air masks, they were dead.

Authorities said the two men were overcome by toxic fumes, and that Ruggiero didn't follow protocol by failing to use a monitor to test the air inside the manhole. The two men most likely died as a result of high levels of hydrogen sulfide, which is quickly detected by an air monitor that was inside the firehouse. Tarrytown officials said that the air monitor later showed only a 14% oxygen level, which was six percent below the necessary reading required to sustain life.

Had Ruggiero followed state mandated protocol, he would have gotten the air monitor from the firehouse and tested the air. The low oxygen levels and high levels of hydrogen sulfide would have led him to put on air breathing equipment before going into the manhole. Kelly, said officials, most likely reacted to seeing Ruggiero in distress at the bottom of the manhole without thinking of his own safety. Kelly and Ruggiero were friends.

Tragic accidents such as these often require the help of an experienced attorney to assess for potential damages. In many instances, there isn't proper safety protocol in place to avoid workplace injuries. In other cases, a supervisor, co-worker or equipment manufacturer may be at blame for the injury or death. It is important to contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced in workers' compensation for help in determining the extent of recovery options you have, and from what parties.