UPDATE: Cicero Man Dies After Fall Into Wheeling Chemical Tank
Fire crews could not save a man who fell to the bottom of a chemical tank at the Sunnyside Corporation in Wheeling on Thursday.
Updated Nov. 30 at 4:30 p.m.
Northbrook, IL -- The man who fell into a Wheeling chemical tank on Thursday was Bernardo Martinez, 37, of Cicero, a foreman with the Bellwood-based Phoenix Industrial Cleaning company, the Journal & Topics reports.
Fire crews recovered the dead body of a man from the bottom of a chemical storage tank at the Sunnyside Corporation in Wheeling on Thursday, according to Wheeling fire chief Keith MacIsaac.
The man, whose identity has not been released, was cleaning the tank near an opening at the top before falling into the chemical "slime" at the bottom of the structure he died in, the fire chief said. The fire chief was unsure whether the unknown man fell accidentally or was overcome by fumes emitted by the chemical contents of the tank.
The man was part of a two-person cleaning crew contracted by Sunnyside, and a second man was at the scene of the accident when fire fighters arrived, according to the Daily Herald.
The dead man was found lying face down in methylene chloride, the Daily Herald reports. The liquid chemical is used in industrial operations such as paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, metal cleaning and adhesives manufacturing.
The 6,000 gallon tank, measures 50 feet high by 28 feet wide, NBC Chicago reports.
According to MacIsaac, it was clear to first responders that the man at the bottom of the tank could not be rescued. An oxygen meter used to measure conditions in the tank determined the bottom of the structure contained only 12 percent oxygen and the fire chief said the man could not have survived prolonged exposure to those conditions.
"There was not much we could do to save this individual," MacIsaac said. "So our operation became making sure no one else got injured or killed."
Hazardous material technicians and highly specialized firefighters trained to work in dangerous conditions then conducted a succesful recovery operation to remove the man from the bottom of the tank, the fire chief said.
"There were no injuries on the scene," MacIsaac said.
Recovery personnel and the dead man had to go through a decontamination process after exiting the tank to remove possibly dangerous, residual chemicals, MacIsaac said.
According to the fire chief, the investigation of the death was turned over to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency designed to oversee the safe working conditions.
Sunnyside makes wood care products, paint removers, thinners and solvents, according to its website.