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Phone: 503-823-3700

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55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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NEWS RELEASE 02/19/12: Man Dies after Falling Into Chemical Holding Tank on Barge


February 20, 2012

2:14 PM

Portland Fire & Rescue has allowed the release of the 911 audio. A public records request should be forwarded to the Bureau of Emergency Communications.




February 20, 2012

9:19 AM


The victims name is John Michael Summers age 57.

Click here to view Portland Fire & Rescue's specialty team personnel response to the confined space/hazmat incident at 5949 N. Basin Avenue.



February 19, 2012

4:39 PM

At 10:05 a.m., Portland Fire & Rescue was called to rescue a man who had fallen into a chemical holding tank on a barge at 5949 N Basin Ave. Station 24 (Overlook/Swan Island) arrived first at 10:10 a.m. and determined that a 57-year old male was missing from the barge.

Due to the nature of the emergency, Portland Fire and Rescue’s Hazmat Team and Technical Rescue Team were called to help. Firefighters found a rope that led into an open hatch that covered a chemical holding tank. The other employee on the barge indicated that he had seen the man near the hatch and then turned away. When he looked back, the man was missing. The tank was approximately 40 x 50 feet and approximately 20 feet deep. There was 12 feet of liquid Lignin Amine in the tank. This is a toxic and corrosive material used in agriculture.

The air above the liquid inside the tank had an oxygen level of less than 1 percent and a level of CO of 108 ppm. That level of oxygen will cause a person to pass out within a minute and die soon thereafter(outside air has 21 percent oxygen). With this information, Portland Fire and Rescue determined that this was going to be a body recovery, not a rescue.

Portland Fire and Rescue worked with the remaining employee to pump the liquid from the tank into another holding tank. This process took about an hour. In the mean time, firefighters confirmed that the male had not left the work site or fallen into the river. The Technical Rescue Team and Hazmat Team worked together to create and implement a plan to enter the tank if necessary. After approximately 40 minutes, firefighters could see that the man was in fact in the tank and deceased. The employee finished pumping out the hazardous liquid and firefighters readied to enter the tank and recover the victim.

At 1:03 p.m., the first technical rescuer entered the tank in a hazmat suit put on by the Hazmat Team. The rescue team consisted of two people trained in Confined Space Rescue. The second rescue team is available to rescue the firefighters who first entered the tank. The Hazmat Team prepared to decontaminate the rescue teams and the victim once they exited the tank. Due to the hazardous nature of the recovery, both specialty teams needed all trained personnel to accomplish the mission. Besides the hazardous liquid, the hatch into the tank was only approximately 20 inches across. The rescue team was in the tank for 44 minutes to recover the man. The incident was over at 1:49 p.m.

Other agencies that responded to the incident are Portland Police, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, United States Coast Guard and Oregon OSHA, and AMR. All the hazardous liquid was contained on the barge and none entered the lagoon. No other injuries occurred during this incident to either civilians or firefighters.