Florida

Firefighter who tried to save 3 men in a manhole is fighting for his life

Leonardo Moreno is the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department firefighter who became seriously ill trying to save the lives of four utility workers trapped in a drainage hole in Key Largo on Monday, Jan. 16. He is pictured here helping Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Pedro Reinoso prepare a man suffering serious medical issues to board an ambulance on Aug. 5, 2015. The man passed out and crashed his pickup truck through a fence on the 18-Mile Stretch.
Leonardo Moreno is the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department firefighter who became seriously ill trying to save the lives of four utility workers trapped in a drainage hole in Key Largo on Monday, Jan. 16. He is pictured here helping Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Pedro Reinoso prepare a man suffering serious medical issues to board an ambulance on Aug. 5, 2015. The man passed out and crashed his pickup truck through a fence on the 18-Mile Stretch. dgoodhue@keysreporter.com

The Key Largo first responder fighting for his life at a Miami hospital is an eight-year veteran of the department.

Leonardo Moreno was flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center after being overcome by noxious gas while trying to save the lives of three utility workers trapped inside a drainage hole in Key Largo on Monday morning.

READ MORE: Three men descend to their death

Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Don Bock confirmed the hero firefighter is Moreno. He had no further update on his condition Tuesday morning.

Three of the four workers Moreno tried to save died inside the 15-foot-deep hole. The other worker was treated at the scene. The incident happened on Long Key Road, a street in a subdivision located off the bay side of mile marker 106.

The dead workers were employed by D.N. Higgins. The company, with a Florida branch in Naples, was contracted by Monroe County for a repaving project in the subdivision. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office identified the men as Elway Gray, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Louis O’Keefe, 49, of Little Torch Key and Robert Wilson, 24, of Summerland Key.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said one of the men entered the drainage hole to look into why a section of the street was not settling properly. When the first worker didn’t come back up, his colleagues went in after him, and one by one, they were overtaken by gas fumes.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue hazmat crews confirmed the gas was hydrogen sulfide and methane. Ramsay said the drainage hole was not properly ventilated. Along with his agency, the incident is being investigated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Deputies and firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after 8:30 a.m. Moreno entered the hole without his air tank because he could not fit through the hole with it, Ramsay said. A colleague was able to don his gear and pull Moreno out. He was also able to retrieves three of the four D.N. Higgins crew.

The third deceased man was retrieved later in the afternoon by Miami-Dade firefighters.

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