Three Filipino Workers Killed In Sewer Mishap In Northern Marianas

Commonwealth Utilities Corporation expressed condolences, investigating what happened

By Bea Cabrera 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 11, 2017) – The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is doing its own investigation, parallel to the investigation the Department of Public Safety is doing, on the death of three men at a CUC sewer well last Friday.

At the same time, CUC executive director Gary Camacho expressed the agency’s condolences to the families of the victims.

“What happened last Friday was an unfortunate incident and from the management and staff of [CUC], we would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our prayers are with them,” Camacho said.

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Derek Gersonde identified the victims as Ricky Quijano, 47; Amid Tapon, 41; and Danilo Paglinawan, 53, all of them Filipinos.

The three men who died were employees of a CUC subcontractor, USA Fanter Ltd., which had been contracted to perform rehabilitation work on the sewer system at Pakpak Beach in San Antonio. It is believed that the men died due to inhalation of toxic gas and drowning.

CUC deputy director William Gilmore said that USA Fanter was in the process of doing final tests on the system, which they will turn over to CUC.

“The plan of the day was to rehabilitate the 24-foot sewer well. The procedure was to clean and clear the well, then the men will go down to install the baffle which will help us control the speed of water going into the wet well then come up to pump in the effluent…and then pump the effluent out. Effluent is wastewater that, if left sitting for a long period of time, naturally produces toxic gas on its own. Once those are done, clean the wet well again with clean water so it is ready for use,” Gilmore said.

“The information we received was that one of the three men…went down first to check. He went down below the wet well level and was affected by hydrogen sulfide. When the two other guys saw he was collapsing, they all started yelling and went down to help him but also got affected by hydrogen sulfide,” Gilmore said.

While the case is currently under investigation by the police, CUC is also conducting its own investigation of the incident.

“The site is currently secured by the DPS until this process is completed. We do not want to impede the investigation in any way. We want to give respect to all the parties involved and do what they need to do. We are working on our own investigation. After that, we have to move forward in completing this project.” Camacho said.

The president of USA Fanter, Steve Qian, said in a statement that their staff and employees’ hearts, minds, and prayers are with their deceased co-workers and their families. “We respectfully request those of the press to respect the privacy of the families and us as co-workers of the deceased during this period of bereavement and mourning.”

“USA Fanter will work wholeheartedly with government authorities who are or will be responsible for investigating this very unfortunate and regrettable tragedy.,” he added in the statement.

“Now is the time for prayers and to console the families of our co-workers we lost. USA Fanter reserves any comments at this time and defer to the authorities to comment publicly on this tragic accident. USA Fanter’s immediate concern is pay our respects to our co-workers, ensure that their remains are properly and promptly repatriated to their homes and to their respective families.”

Saipan Tribune
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