Two surveyors died in a 25-foot sewer vault last week while measuring sewer lines for a nearby housing allotment. Matthew Stoffer, 26, and Terry Allshouse, 53, were employees of Spagnuolo Associates, a surveying and engineering firm in suburban Fairlawn, Ohio. After descending into the vault via a built-in ladder, Stoffer told Allshouse he could not breathe. Allshouse descended into the vault to help while a third man went for further assistance. When he returned, he found the two men lying at the bottom of the vault, allegedly killed from losing conciousness from a lack of oxygen in the bottom of the vault. It is not known whether Allshouse descended into the vault to help or if he fell in. Firefighters measured the oxygen level in the vault at 12.7 percent, well below the 19.5 percent considered hazardous, according to standards by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Neither of the victims wore safety equipment, such as breathing apparatus, or had rescue equipment. OSHA regulations state that confined spaces may be entered without a written permit if the space can be sustained in a safe condition. An OSHA investigation continues to determine if the company should be issued citations for policy violations.
Ohio Surveyors Die on Worksite
September 11, 2000