On Friday, January 21, 2011 at 3:57 AM, 10 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 6 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 1 Heavy Rescue, 1 Urban Search and Rescue Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 2 EMS Battalion Captains, 4 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team, a total of 84 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel under the direction of Battalion Chief Craig Yoder, responded to a Confined Space Rescue at 4501 West Colorado Boulevard in the Atwater Village area of Los Angeles.
Responding to a report of persons unconscious within the 269,000 square-foot Baxter Healthcare Corporation blood plasma fractionation facility, first arriving Los Angeles Firefighters swiftly established a perimeter, command post and safe staging location as they donned protective gear to enter the facility.
Joined quickly by additional firefighters, and with an LAFD Hazardous Materials Squad and LAFD Urban Search & Rescue Team on the way, firefighters discovered and rescued an adult male found pulseless and non-breathing.
Nearby the man, but trapped within the confines of a cylindrical vessel, firefighters discovered a pair of his coworkers unconscious.
According to witnesses, the three men had been cleaning and/or maintaining high-technology medical equipment when they were suddenly overcome. The exact sequence in which the men collapsed has yet to be confirmed.
As LAFD personnel moved the first lifeless worker to an area of safety for advanced medical care, firefighters utilized strength and ingenuity to safely extract the pair of unconscious men through a 24" diameter portal atop the permanently mounted four-foot-tall by five-foot-wide tank in which they were imperiled.
The two critically ill men rescued from the tank, and their gravely ill colleague - who had his pulse and blood pressure restored by the skilled effort of LAFD Paramedics - were rushed alive to a trio of nearby hospitals. Though Los Angeles Police Officers later informed LAFD that one of the men had died, it was not immediately clear which had succumbed.
While LAFD Hazardous Materials experts determined a significant presence of ethanol in the area where the men collapsed, it was not immediately clear what role the substance had played, in whole or in part, in the worker's demise or his colleague's being rendered unconscious.
No other employee or responder injuries were reported.
Pursuant of protocol, Investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and Cal/OSHA responded to the scene to commence their respective death and injury investigations. The aforementioned agencies will be working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner to positively identify the decedent, and to determine the precise cause, time and manner of his death.
Questions regarding the presence, need or injured men's use of safety equipment and approved worksite procedures remain within the purview of Cal/OSHA officials.
Submitted by Erik Scott and Brian Humphrey, Spokesmen
Los Angeles Fire Department