3 road workers dead after collapsing underground in Key Largo

KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) - Police are investigating after three construction workers in Key Largo died while working underground, Monday morning.

According to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, at around 8:30 a.m., three workers went inside a drainage manhole on Long Key Road to investigate a newly paved road when they collapsed.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office released the identity of the victims as 34-year-old Elway Gray of Fort Lauderdale, 49-year-old Louis O’Keefe, of Little Torch Key and 24-year-old Robert Wilson, of Summerland Key.

Two of the three workers were pulled from the trench and confirmed dead at the scene, near Mile Marker 106, by authorities. The third employee has yet to be found and is presumably dead, police said.

“Unfortunately, all three individuals have passed away,” said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We are right now just trying to decontaminate the firefighters who went inside the hole and decontaminate the area.”

Several of the construction workers were overcome by fumes.

“The smell is just a really strong, strong rotten egg smell, and I’m assuming it’s the smell that comes from below the earth,” said area resident Barbara Guerra. “It was very strong this morning.”

A Key Largo volunteer firefighter attempting to save these men collapsed underground, as well, and was pulled from the hole. The firefighter was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“The firefighter was unresponsive, not breathing. A couple of sheriff’s deputies were able to revive him with CPR measures,” Ramsay said. “Last I heard, he was in a coma state, so I think his condition is pretty critical.”

Two deputies who were on the scene were also affected and taken to Mariner’s Hospital for evaluation.

A hazmat team from Miami-Dade County was called to the scene to assist in the recovery of the workers.

The immediate area was also evacuated as a precaution, including five homes, which were evacuated due to the incident.

According to officials, the workers were employees of Douglas N. Higgins and under contract with Monroe County to perform road repairs.

The scene along Long Key Road remained active with a heavy police presence, Monday afternoon. The street remained blocked off as of 4:30 p.m. as officials continue to investigate the cause.

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