Thursday, December 02, 2004

W. Java villagers die of asphyxiation in well

Source: Jakarta Post

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post/Bandung

A grim atmosphere loomed over Selacau village, Sumedang regency, West Java, following the death of four residents who died of gas poisoning inside a well on Tuesday. The victims were Aceng Kurniawan, 35, his brother-in-law Jajuli, 21, and two of his neighbors Asikin, 45, and Yoyo Sunarta, 21. Another neighbor, Ayi, said that the tragedy occurred at about 9 a.m. when Aceng intended to clear up the mud he thought might have accumulated at the bottom of his well and clogged the pipe leading to the water pump. The 14-meter well, located outside his house, had always been covered with a metal sheet. However, his wish to obtain water turned to disaster and led to a chain of events, killing four local men.

Aceng had initially went down the well using a rope aided by Jajuli. He suddenly shouted for help when he was about five to 10 meters down, probably after he had trouble breathing and fell into the water before Jajuli could help him.
Jajuli then went down to try to help. He tied the rope to a nearby tree and went down to help Aceng. But, he too fell down the well.
Stunned by the incident, Asikin and Yoyo, who were in the vicinity, went to the rescue and descended down the well to help Aceng and Jajuli, but to no avail. They also fell in and died.
"Asep and I wanted to help but we were discouraged by the neighbors," Ayi told reporters at the accident scene.
Panicked villagers finally reported the incident to the Cimanggung police, who later requested assistance from the Mobile Brigade's Search and Rescue team stationed at the West Java Police Headquarters.
Seven SAR team members using gas masks then recovered the four bodies. Yoyo's body was the last evacuated at about 12:30 p.m.
Aceng's wife, Nani, 30, was too tormented by the tragedy to speak to reporters.
Sumedang Regent Don Murdono later arrived and conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved families.
Sumedang Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yoyok Subagyono surmised that the four died of inhaling poison gas inside the well, which had not been opened for a long time.
"They died of inhaling some type of dangerous gas, proven by a test we conducted on a live chicken, which died after it was suspended down into the well," said Yoyok.
"The four victims had not checked whether there was a presence of gas by lighting matches or first putting live animals down the well," he added.
"Gas is heavy in nature and usually found in deep holes, including wells," said Yoyok.
He said that the police had determined that there was no foul play involved, but several eyewitnesses would be questioned for the sake of collecting data.