Manure pit.
July 9, 2004 12:00 AM   Subscribe

While attempting to climb out of the pit, the initial victim was overcome and fell to the bottom. The grandson then entered the pit to attempt a rescue. He too was overcome and collapsed. What produces Methance, Hydrogen Sulfide, Carbon Dioxide, and Ammonia at the same time, naturally? Your friendly center for disease control will be happy to explain.
posted by Keyser Soze (29 comments total)
That brings back memories.
Back in the day, when I could move without sweating, and I worked part time on a farm, the farmer told me in no uncertain terms about the dangers of Hydrogen Sulphide.

"If it smells like rotton eggs," he would say, "You'll probably be fine. If it begins to smell sweet, then it's too late. You're going to die."

Good times.
posted by seanyboy at 12:07 AM on July 9, 2004

via memepool.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:15 AM on July 9, 2004

The juicy bit: "The nephew, the older son, and the dairy farmer then entered the pit one at a time, attempting to rescue those already overcome. Each was overcome and collapsed in turn."

WTF? Seriously.

Maybe it was all for the best...
posted by spazzm at 2:08 AM on July 9, 2004

What a shitty way to die . . .

Sorry. Someone was going to say it, so might as well be first.
posted by wdpeck at 3:25 AM on July 9, 2004

Hey, the oracle at Delphi had crazy gasses too, man...

posted by moonbird at 4:25 AM on July 9, 2004

So, if you have to work in a manure pit, do you wear SCUBA gear?
posted by alumshubby at 4:51 AM on July 9, 2004

I smell a Darwin Award.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:41 AM on July 9, 2004

At first, I thought this post was some sort of metaphor about the current state of the American political process.

Well, it is about shit.
posted by troutfishing at 6:39 AM on July 9, 2004

well, that's a darwin award if there ever was one...
posted by cadence at 7:11 AM on July 9, 2004

Q: What's worse than dying in a manure pit?

A: Being the second person to die in that same manure pit.

They teach "Reach, Throw, Go" for water rescues, I'm thinking that goes for manure pit rescues too.
posted by tommasz at 7:12 AM on July 9, 2004


Grow up, people. This isn't some bank robber who points the gun the wrong way. These were people working for next to no money who died in a pit of pig shit. It's fucking horrible.
posted by jpoulos at 7:28 AM on July 9, 2004

spazzm, grabbingsand, cadence, and anyone else thinking "Darwin award": Try imagining that a family member is trapped and choking to death not twenty feet away from you, in what is basically a glorified ditch, and see how easy is it is to stand there and do nothing while you listen to them die. This is not stupidity, it's just human tragedy.

On preview: jpoulos - ditto.
posted by skoosh at 7:37 AM on July 9, 2004


Not sure what else to say 'cause I'm not sure I understand the point of the post.
posted by dhoyt at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2004

The horrible part involves the panicked family members (particularly the child) trying in vain to save their loved ones, and that's not funny at all.

That said...these weren't amateurs unfamiliar with the dangers of manure pits. None of them could figure out that it was exceedingly unwise to go in without being tied to a rope first?
posted by Epenthesis at 7:54 AM on July 9, 2004

They really do look like a vison of hell, even this this (fairly clean) one does,
I can't imagine what a less well-maintained one would be like.
posted by milovoo at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2004

skoosh would it not be better if they'd have kept their head screwed on and done something constructive, instead of, in essence, committing pointless suicide?

Are we men, or are we lemmings?
posted by spazzm at 8:12 AM on July 9, 2004

I recently had to take job training on working in confined spaces. I saw a chart very similar to that one.

In a 4 percent oxygen atmosphere, you will enter a coma in 40 seconds. If you are in a low-oxygen environment, it is better to hold your breath than breath in. Those three extra minutes might save your life.
posted by Ptrin at 9:11 AM on July 9, 2004

well, it says on the page that one of the side effects of lower oxygen content is "impaired judgement" - it's possible that the edge of the pit was an environment with reduced enough oxygen levels to make it difficult for people to think clearly.

according to the link, "death in minutes" = when oxygen levels are down to 6%; 19.5 % is lowest safe level; 16% is listed as "impaired judgement - if the workers were immediately collapsing in the pit, the oxy levels must have been pretty low, so it stands to reason they'd be reduced at the edge...
posted by mdn at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2004

sorry, that was in response to all the "darwin awards" posts.
posted by mdn at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2004

To add to my previous post, NIOSH reports that 36% of the fatalities in confined spaces are the rescuers, most of whom were not professional emergency services workers.
posted by tommasz at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2004


Opportunity. Not really clean energy is it though?
posted by dmt at 9:34 AM on July 9, 2004

A number of personal accounts of individuals living near CAFOs [Confined Animal Feeding Operations = Factory Farms] report extended periods of time where they cannot open their windows or perform outdoor activities, in part, because of the excessive fumes emanating from nearby CAFOs.

Manure pits and cesspools are necessary components of CAFOs. CAFOs are necessary components of a culture where too few people care enough to change their diet.

This one incident is absolutely horrific, and those who want to laugh about it are, I would suspect, whistling through the graveyard. But it's only one extreme example of the effect of generating massive amounts of shit in order to generate massive amounts of meat.

...yet it's the vegans and vegetarians who "care more about animals than about people."
posted by soyjoy at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2004

spazzm: would it not be better if they'd have kept their head screwed on and done something constructive, instead of, in essence, committing pointless suicide?

Yes, it would have been better, because most of them would have lived. The fact that five people died trying to save each other is not all for the best. Also, if there wasn't a suitable rope on the scene, there probably wouldn't be enough time to get one before everyone in the pit died, and they'd probably know that. Add to that the extreme emotional intensity of the situation, as I alluded to earlier, and one can see how ordinary human beings can make the decision to walk into what might very well be their grave, in order to save their own. They were not necessarily congenital morons who deserved to die.

If a serious error was made, it was in not already having a rope, a winch, or other safety equipment nearby. That's the whole point of the NIOSH advisory - to get more people to get that equipment beforehand, so that in the event, they don't have to choose between risking death and a lifetime of guilt and regret.

soyjoy's got a point, but factory-farm workplaces could be made much safer for humans if more precautions were taken, and more consideration given to worker safety. Unfortunately, the more corporatized and centralized the operation, the more the workers at the bottom of the hierarchy tend to suffer.
posted by skoosh at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2004

BTW, the Google Ads in this thread are brilliant.
posted by subgenius at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2004

The really horrible part is that this kind of death, and even this kind of accident are not at all uncommon. Person goes into confined space and collapes from anoxia. Next person along enters, collapses, next and next and even next again. This kind of situation preys on that mose basic instinct: to help those in trouble.

Even worse, on familiy farms, the next person along is usualy a brother or son or father. Total family kills are not unheard of. Fermentation silos are the classic example, but cess pits and casements (those underwater cement bunkers around bridge pilings) are common death traps too.

We train the people who do emergency response in cases like this, the firefighters' HAZMAT team. Confined space entry is one of the worst parts of the job for first responders, especially if there are people down, beacuse they know that they aren't going to find surviors.
posted by bonehead at 12:27 PM on July 9, 2004

By the way, the equipment worn for entery in to these situations does resemple SCUBA, but with one importand difference. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBAs) are over-pressure devices, SCUBAs are not. If you wear a SCUBA into one of these situations, you run the risk of anoxia and its consequenses.

SCBAs are always at least 0.7 in Hg overpressure even on the inhale, SCUBAs drop to -0.5 in Hg to allow you to breathe more easily. Water pressure on the SCUBA exhaust valve keeps the mask from flooding, SCBAs cannot rely on the atmospheric pressure to keep the mask sealed.
posted by bonehead at 12:35 PM on July 9, 2004

Got Darwin?

An actual dispatch from Reuters, 3/14/04, entitled "Three Die Retrieving Phone from Latrine":

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Three Kenyans died trying to retrieve a mobile phone that slipped down an open-pit latrine while its owner answered a call of nature, a newspaper reported on Friday. Anxious to recover her phone, the owner in the coastal town of Mombasa offered 1,000 shillings ($13.09) to anyone who would recover it, the Daily Nation said. Well over half the Kenyan population of 30 million people lives on less than $1 a day. The first to try -- a 30-year-old radio technician -- failed to resurface after disappearing down a ladder into the latrine. His friend went after him but slipped and fell. The third casualty, trying to rescue the others, was hauled out of the pit by neighbors after he inhaled the fumes and lost consciousness. The man was rushed to hospital but died on the way. "The fumes inside must be extremely poisonous considering the short time it was taking to disable the retrievers," acting Mombasa police chief Peter Njenga was reported as saying. The Daily Nation said police prevented a fourth man from climbing into the latrine and the search for the phone was eventually abandoned.
posted by rdone at 8:04 PM on July 9, 2004

Asphyxiation accidents happen where you'd least expect them.
posted by dhartung at 12:33 AM on July 10, 2004

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