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OSHA investigates N. Sioux sewer death

OSHA investigates N. Sioux sewer death

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NORTH SIOUX CITY -- The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is investigating the death of a Sioux City man who was overcome by fumes along with another worker in a North Sioux City sewer Saturday.

Kory Menken, North Sioux City executive director of economic development, confirmed 54-year-old Robert Thompson's death Thursday. Thompson and another Speedy Rooter employee became unconscious at about 11 a.m. Saturday while attempting to fix a clogged sewer in a one-block stretch of Military Road between North Main Street and Watier Avenue.

Thompson died Sunday, according to his obituary. Chad Elgert of Sioux City, the second worker, remained hospitalized Thursday night at Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City, a family member said.

When asked about Elgert's medical condition, a nursing supervisor at Mercy Medical Center said she couldn't provide any information.

Menken declined to comment further about the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Tom Deutscher, an OSHA compliance assistance specialist based in Bismarck, N.D., said a compliance officer has been in North Sioux City all week conducting an investigation.

It could take a week to six months before his findings are released. Any violations would be issued against Speedy Rooter, according to Deutscher.

He said incidents of workers being overtaken by sewer fumes happen more often than they should.

"Inside the sewer business there's inherent hazards that they've known of for years, so they should be prepared to deal with them," he said.

Speedy Rooter did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Staff writer Molly Montag contributed to this report.

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