Low Oxygen Levels Detected in Deadly Manhole Incident

Firefighter was trying to help city worker

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two men are dead after falling down a manhole in Tarrytown. (Published Monday, Sep 6, 2010)

    A fire department official says oxygen levels were dangerously low in a manhole where a sewer worker and a firefighter died.

    No cause of death has been established in Monday's deaths of sewer worker Anthony Ruggiero, 48, and Tarrytown firefighter John Kelly, 51.

    Kelly had tried to save Ruggiero. Assistant Fire Chief John McGee said Tuesday that a hazardous materials team measured the oxygen level at 14 percent. The normal amount of oxygen in air is about 21 percent. He said he did not know if other, deadly gases were detected.

    Firefighters with special breathing apparatus then went into the manhole and were able to pull the men out. The victims were rushed to Westchester Medical Center.

    "I just want to say our prayers go to the families of the two men," said Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell.

    Ruggiero had been with the village for more than 20 years.

    "When the public works employees and firefighters who are here, when they heard, they are truly broken up. These are good, good men. They have friends through the community.... It is a terrible loss," said Village Administrator Michael Blau.

    "The fire volunteers are not trained in close quarters rescue," Blau added, explaining why Kelly wasn't wearing protection. "I think he just wanted to save his friend," he sighed.

    "They were the best," said a somber Frank Giampiccolo, a fellow volunteer and police officer who says he knew both the men for the better part of 40-years.

    Tarrytown has had a volunteer fire department for 150 years, but it was taken out of service for the day because of the double tragedy. Mutual-aid replacement crews and equipment arrived from other communities to respond to emergencies.