Peter N. Gonatas, 47, painter, saved Paul M. Sweeney, 26, laborer, and four others from suffocation, Salem, Ohio, August 27, 1956. Sweeney entered a manhole 12 feet deep, opened the control valve on a pipe carrying liquid sewage which had been treated at a sewage disposal plant, and was overcome by an unidentified gas as the liquid leaked from the pipe into the manhole. Thinking that Sweeney had been injured, Donald E. Riley entered the manhole and also was overcome, falling into the rising sewage. Unaware of the presence of gas, Ivan L. Lowe, William Taylor, and Ernest Taylor then entered the manhole in quick succession. Each man lost consciousness and fell to the bottom of the manhole, which was approximately five feet square. Other workmen obtained a 30-foot rope but, by then aware of the presence of a dangerous gas, did not enter the manhole to aid the men. Conatas ran 100 feet to the manhole and was told that five men had been overcome by gas in the manhole. Ignoring the suggestions of others that he wait for firemen to arrive, Gonatas took one end of the rope and descended into the manhole on a ladder, unaware that the flow of sewage had been shut off at the main control valve inside the plant and that the liquid was draining slowly from the manhole. Gonatas secured footing on the bottom in the sewage, which then was two feet deep, and tied the rope around William Taylor, who lay on top of the other men. As Taylor was drawn from the manhole by the other workmen, Gonatas raised Riley and Sweeney so that their faces were out of the sewage. Ernest Taylor, Lowe, Sweeney, and Riley were hoisted from the manhole by means of the rope, which Gonatas tied to each man in turn. Gonatas then ascended the ladder after having been inside the manhole 10 minutes. The five men were hospitalized for periods of three to 28 days. Gonatas suffered no ill effects from the gas but was tired from his exertions. All recovered.
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