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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.

“He meant a lot to our company and was loved and respected,” Phoenix General Manager Jeff MacNerland told the Journal & Topics. “He was one of our top producers and will be sorely missed.”

Original Story

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.

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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.

SeeingDragons December 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
dammit .... now we're going to have to deal with yet ANOTHER evil Batman villian ....
George Steffey December 02, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Why do people blame the company? the employee has the responsibility to refuse performing a job that puts his safety in jeopardy .
Ralph December 02, 2012 at 02:43 PM
The company might have had correct safety procedures in place. What they are wrong about is ensuring that those procedures are implemented properly. Employees sometimes get complacent in their workplace. Skip a few very important steps. Dealing with a chemical like this is a very dangerous time to take shortcuts. My condolences to the family for their loss.
rkeeeballs December 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
My thoughts exactly Jerry ! A simple safety harness to prevent a slip from turning deadly.........This company gets the "DUH" award ! Gas mask respirator anyone ?
RANDY MOODY December 06, 2012 at 12:27 PM
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE UNION TO BE SAFE. THAT IS WHY WE HAVE THE LABOR BOARD AND OSHA. YOU CAN REFUSE TO DO A JOB THAT WILL PUT YOU IN HARMS WAY WITHOUT THE FEAR OF REPRISAL. IT IS CALLED A QUESTIONING ATTITUDE. NOWADAYS MOST COMPANIES PUT SAFTEY OF THE WORKER AT THE TOP OF THE LIST. THEY BENEFIT FROM LOWER INSURANCE RATES, FINES, ETC. SO IT IS IN THEIR BEST INTEREST TO PROTECT EVERYONE THAT WORKS FOR THEM AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

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