Lester Eugene Benbow died helping to save Clifford J. Cox from suffocation, Foresthill, California, June 20, 1970. In the tunnel of an abandoned gold mine 132 feet below ground level, Cox, 60, sales clerk, lost consciousness 2,700 feet from the entrance shaft due to lack of oxygen. His nephew, who had accompanied him, was unable to move Cox but managed to return to the shaft and ascend from the mine to get help. Among those who assembled was Benbow, 41, a schoolteacher serving as ambulance driver for a volunteer rescue squad. With breathing equipment, Benbow descended to the tunnel, which was five to seven feet in width and in height. Accompanied by two other men, Benbow proceeded along the tunnel. Beyond 1,600 feet from the shaft, the lack of oxygen made breathing equipment necessary. The three men reached Cox, who responded when given air but did not regain full consciousness. Benbow and the other men began carrying Cox out of the tunnel; but their air supply was low, and after they had gone only 30 feet, all fell to their knees. When Benbow and one of the men lost consciousness, the third man made his way back to the safe area to get help. Efforts of others eventually resulted in the removal of Benbow, Cox, and the third man. Benbow was dead; but Cox and the other man recovered fully.
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