Robert L. Merrifield died attempting to help save Robert P. Sowell from drowning, Sabine Pass, Texas, August 26, 1987. At work on an offshore drilling rig in the Sabine Pass, Sowell, 35, was overcome in the oxygen-deficient atmosphere of a tank. He fell from a ladder into five feet of water at the bottom of the tank. Alerted to the accident, Merrifield, 22, floorhand, ran to the tank with a co-worker, and both entered for Sowell. Merrifield and the co-worker were also overcome and fell into the water. The three men were removed by others, but they could not be revived.
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