3 shipbuilders killed in sewage leak on carrierJuly 13, 1997
Web posted at: 9:22 a.m. EDT (1322 GMT)
NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia (CNN) -- Three shipbuilders were killed inside an under-construction aircraft carrier when methane gas from the ship's sewage system leaked into the compartment where they worked.
The bodies of the three were found shortly before midnight Saturday, nearly 12 hours after the leak was detected. Rescue workers could not reach the work area until air pumps had made the air safe. Rescue efforts also were hampered by liquid waste that leaked into the compartment along with the poisonous gas.
Eighteen hundred workers on the Harry S. Truman, being built for the U.S. Navy by Newport News Shipbuilding, were evacuated when the leak was discovered. Officials said two workers were treated and released from a nearby hospital after they inhaled the gas.
Officials with the shipbuilding company said the leak was contained to the compartment in which the bodies were found. The cause of the leak is still under investigation.
The 1,100-foot-long Truman is scheduled for delivery to the Navy next year.
Autopsy reports on the three workers have not been completed. But prolonged exposure to methane gas, a colorless, odorless gas created by decomposing animal and vegetable matter, can be fatal.
The three had been installing pipe deep inside the Truman, six decks below the flight deck.
The dead include Roosevelt Eure Jr., a 42-year-old pipefitter with about 23 years of service with Newport News Shipbuilding, and Richard Thompson, a 45-year-old pipefitter with about 10 years of service with Newport News Shipbuilding. The third victim's name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin, officials said.
Saturday's was the first fatal accident at the Newport News shipyard since 1990, when a worker was crushed as he worked on a steel structure.
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