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Tarrytown Faulted In Manhole Suffocation Deaths

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Anthony Ruggiero, left, and John Kelly (AP Photo/Tarrytown Village Administrator)

Anthony Ruggiero, left, and John Kelly (AP Photo/Tarrytown Village Administrator)

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP/CBSNewYork) — The village of Tarrytown endangered its workers — including two men who suffocated in a manhole — by allowing them to enter dangerous spaces without proper training and equipment, the state Labor Department said Friday.

Tarrytown was issued four violations of state safety laws and must repair them or risk $200-a-day fines.

Two violations were classified as willful, meaning “management was aware of the situation and did nothing to prevent it,” said Maureen Cox, director of the Labor Department’s safety division.

Anthony Ruggiero, 47, of the Tarrytown public works department, and volunteer firefighter John Kelly, 51, were killed by poisonous sewer gas on Labor Day.

Ruggiero collapsed after he had gone down a 20-foot manhole to clear a blocked sewer pipe. Kelly went down to rescue him, and he too collapsed.

Neither man had tested the air or worn a breathing mask, as safety protocols would have required, the Labor Department’s report says.

The report says the DPW’s safety program was “left to lapse when the last employee trained on the program retired in 2004.” Investigator’s interviews with managers indicated that employees were prohibited from entering dangerous confined spaces, but employees said they “had never been instructed not to” and regularly did, the report says.

The Fire Department’s training was improper; even the firefighters who eventually brought the dead men up from the manhole did not wear their masks properly or use the right procedures, the report says.

The village has 60 days to appeal. Village Administrator Michael Blau said Friday that officials were reviewing the report and had forwarded it to a consulting firm that was hired to review “confined-space issues.”

Cox said Tarrytown must clear the four violations by various dates between Jan. 4 and Feb. 22. She said her division would do a follow-up inspection and meet with workers and management to check compliance.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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