Richard J. West, 38, school superintendent, died helping to save Kenneth W. Schoonmaker, 14, from suffocation, Sentinel, Oklahoma, June 25, 1968. Kenneth entered an abandoned cistern 12 feet in diameter by descending a rope through a small opening in the cistern’s collar, which rose three feet above the ground. He lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen and collapsed on the bottom of the cistern 11 feet below ground level. West was alerted to the situation and ran to the cistern but received no reply to his calls to Kenneth. After summoning neighbors, West ran back to the cistern and descended into it by means of the rope. Others who had gathered at the scene heard West gasp and then heard the sound of him falling. They pulled on the rope and found it was tied loosely around Kenneth’s foot. They drew Kenneth from the cistern and then dropped the rope back through the opening; but West did not respond to their calls. Firemen arrived. One fireman, with a second rope tied around him, entered the cistern long enough to tie the first rope around the ankles of West. After the fireman had been drawn from the cistern, West was removed by means of the rope tied to him. He could not be revived. Kenneth recovered after being hospitalized.
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