Russell Leon Beck, 33, heavy equipment operator, died attempting to save Marcus Pacheco, Jr., 22, laborer, from suffocation, Cerritos, California, May 16, 1967. Pacheco, Beck, and two other men were preparing to clean silt from a collector beneath the concrete bottom of the Los Coyotes River, then dry. A manhole cover was removed from the underground basin, which was eight feet deep. The men did not know that the silt in the basin contained crude petroleum which exuded hydrogen sulphide gas. A truck with a hoist was positioned alongside the manhole, and the other two men then left on an errand. When they returned about 20 minutes later, they noted that the truck’s engine was running but that Beck, who operated the hoist and never entered the basins, was nowhere in sight. Pacheco also was missing. One of the men started to enter the silt collector and saw two bodies lying on the bottom but did not recognize them as Pacheco and Beck. Police and firemen were summoned. Because they detected the odor of crude oil, firemen used masks in entering the basin. Beck was about three feet from the manhole ladder and had a handkerchief tied over his mouth and nose. Pacheco, who lay three feet farther from the ladder, did not have a handkerchief over his face. It was believed that Pacheco had been affected by the gas and had called for help, and that Beck had gone to his aid but also had been overcome. Beck and Pacheco were removed from the silt collector but could not be revived.
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