Elroy J. Gautreaux died attempting to save Gary W. Johnson from suffocation, Port Arthur, Texas, June 14, 1962. At a sewage plant Johnson, 21, sewage plant operator’s helper, descended a ladder to the bottom of a pit four feet square and 14 feet deep. Standing in two feet of watery sludge containing sewage and debris, he tried for two minutes to open the clogged end of a hose being used to drain the pit. Johnson climbed out, gasping somewhat, and Gautreaux, 21, sewage plant utility workman, warned him not to light a cigarette lest it make him sick. A minute later Johnson re-entered the pit. Stooping with his face near the sludge, he removed additional debris and then collapsed from a deficiency of oxygen in the pit. He slumped to a seated position on the bottom, his upper body fell forward, and his face was submerged in the sludge. Gautreaux, saying nothing to the other men present, quickly descended into the pit. Standing on the bottom, he grasped Johnson under the armpits and raised his face from the sludge. One of the other men lowered the end of a rope. Before Gautreaux could grasp it, he also collapsed and slumped to a seated position on the bottom, his face falling forward into the sludge. Johnson dropped back to his original position in the sludge. Two workmen, each with a rope tied around him and held by others, entered the pit separately but began gasping for breath and were drawn out before they could aid Johnson or Gautreaux. A workman arrived with an oxygen mask and, with a safety line around him, entered the pit long enough to tie a rope around Johnson, who was removed. Firemen arrived, and one of them wearing a mask tied a rope around Gautreaux, who also was removed. Neither Johnson nor Gautreaux could be revived.
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