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Tarrytown Officials: Safety Procedures Not Followed in Manhole Death Tragedy
Tarrytown's Village Administrator, Michael Blau held a news conference today and said proper state-mandated protocol for entering a manhole was not followed when Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly went into a manhole outside the Consolidated Engine Fire House to check out reports of sewage problems.
Blau says the investigation is still ongoing and is being lead by the Tarrytown Police Department, the Westchester County District Attorney's Office as well as PESH--the state's Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau.
Blau also released additional information about the Monday night tragedy. He said the initial sewer backup call came at around 3:45 p.m. It was at that time, he said, three Village workers were called in to clear up the blockage. One of the men was Road Maintenance Foreman Anthony Ruggiero with the Village's DPW. The three eventually tracked the blockage at Sheldon Avenue and Meadow Street to Consolidated Engine Company Headquarters.
It was around that time, Blau said, John Kelly turned up and offered his assistance.
At one point, Ruggiero opened up the manhole and went inside, apparently to remove something he believed was contributing to the blockage. Kelly looked in and saw Ruggiero sprawled at the bottom of the manhole. Shortly after that, Kelly descended and was overcome. It is unclear why the men did not take proper precautions,
Village Administrator Blau says he does not believe anyone ordered Kelly to go into the manhole to investigate what had happened to Ruggiero. Blau says it was only after Kelly and Ruggiero succumbed to fumes that a gas meter was lowered in showing a 14% oxygen level.
Blau says the 14% is well above the 6% danger level.
The Westchester Medical Examiner's Office's autopsy reports were inconclusive and would only suggest the men did not die from slipping and falling. Officials are awaiting toxicology report results to see if hydrogen sulfide contributed or caused the men's deaths.
Hundreds have been paying their respects to both men at Coffey Funeral Home in Tarrytown.
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