COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) — Three people who became trapped in a manhole in Columbia City Tuesday morning have died.
The incident happened in the 400 block of Main Street, in the parking lot of the Whitley County Consolidated Schools transportation building. Crews were called there just before 9 a.m. on a report of an utility accident where three workers were trapped in a sewer manhole, according to the Columbia City mayor’s office.
The three men were working on a storm sewer 25 feet down when they became trapped. There was 5 feet of water inside, the mayor’s office said.
A Technical Rescue Team was called in from the Fort Wayne Fire Department. The crew was able to pull the three men from the manhole, and medics started life-saving measures but all three were declared dead at the scene.
The men were identified by Whitley County Coroner Randy Dellinger as 48-year-old Jason R. Ball and 21-year-old Bronson Ball, both of Columbia City, and 43-year-old Douglas M. Kramer of Fort Wayne. Autopsies found the men died of asphyxia due to hypoxic environment (low oxygen conditions) and subsequent drowning, and their deaths were ruled accidental.
The men were employees of Crosby Excavating of Fort Wayne, Dellinger reported. The company was contracted to perform sewer work in the city.
“The city of Columbia City extends heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in a utility accident today, and to their employer,” Mayor Ryan Daniel said in a statement. “While all the details are unknown at this time, we will be working with all parties to determine ways in which these types of tragedies can be prevented in the future.
“We ask that our community join us in keeping these individuals and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”