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Four Workers Killed In Naval Base Accident

September 6, 1996

YORKTOWN, Va. (AP) _ Four civilian maintenance employees were found dead Thursday in a sewage tank at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, all apparently overcome by fumes from sewage.

According to base officials, the accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. when one of the workers entered a sewage tank on the station’s pier. The tank is used as a holding facility for waste pumped out of docking ships.

Apparently while disconnecting a valve in the tank, he was overcome by fumes. With the valve disconnected, the tank partially filled with gas and sewage.

The other three workers entered the tank, apparently to rescue their colleague, and were overcome by fumes. Methane _ an odorless, colorless and combustible gas _ is often found in sewage tanks.

The dead were identified as: Randy Sparks and Orlando Welsh, both of Lackey; Jason Parker of Seaford; and Darrell Gauthier of Norfolk.

The four worked for Virginia Beach-based Qualicon Corp., which had been doing maintenance work at the pier for several months, but a base spokesman J. Thomas Black didn’t know anything more specific about the project.

The Navy is investigating the deaths to find the cause. The bodies of the four were sent to the state medical examiner for autopsies.

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