PORTLAND - A worker on a barge docked in the Swan Island Basin died after falling into a vat full of a corrosive and combustible chemical compound, fire officials reported Sunday.
The victim was identified Monday as John Summers, 57, from Pe Ell, Wash., a small town southwest of Olympia.
Crews were called just after 10 a.m. to the report that an employee had fallen into a tank full of a wood byproduct called Lignin, according to Lt. Rick Tyler with Portland Fire and Rescue.
Two workers on the barge had walked past the tank when one of them suddenly noticed the other was missing. He then saw that an emergency line that had been tied to the other worker was leading down into the tank.
"There was 12 feet of liquid Lignin Amine in the tank," Tyler said. "This is a toxic and corrosive material used in agriculture."
A hazardous materials team said the worker would have become unconscious within seconds of falling into the tank, as the oxygen level reading was less than one percent near the top of the tank.
Just before 11:30 a.m. crews found the body by using a camera. The liquid was then drained from the tank
Two firefighters equipped with HazMat suits and oxygen tanks were lowered into the tank to recover the body.
"The rescue team was in the tank for 44 minutes to recover the man," Tyler said. "The incident was over at 1:49 p.m."
All of the hazardous liquid was contained within the barge and no other injuries were reported.