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2 Dead, 9 Injured From Sewer Gas

July 8, 2002

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ A sewer pipe ruptured Monday at a construction site, killing two workers who were overcome by gas and injuring nine others, fire officials said.

Fire officials said the deaths may have been caused by hydrogen sulfide gas, which in high concentrations can cause people to stop breathing.

The workers were in a 16-foot trench at an industrial area on the east side of Des Moines. Acting Fire Chief Doug Rubin said they had climbed down a ladder to get on a platform when they were overcome by fumes.

``When they went down in the hole, they go down with hardhats and lights, not necessarily any breathing equipment,″ Rubin said. ``This is something they do all the time. This is obviously an oddity, what happened today.″

Four of the injured were firefighters who were overcome by fumes. They were hospitalized in good condition, said fire spokeswoman Linda Frangenberg. Conditions on the others weren’t immediately available.

City officials said the two dead workers were employed by St. Louis-based Insituform Technologies Inc., a company specializing in the repair of city sewers. A man answering the phone at its headquarters would only say they were investigating the accident.

Bill Stowe, city public works manager, said the workers were placing a plastic resin into the sewer pipe. The resin solidifies and becomes a new pipe inside the old pipe.

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