COLUMBIA CITY — The three men who died while working on a storm sewer project in Columbia City Tuesday, Aug. 25, have been identified.
The deceased include a father and son from Columbia City: Jason Ball, 48, and Bronson Ball, 21, along with Douglas Kramer, 43, of Fort Wayne.
It is reported that the three men were employees of Crosby Excavating out of Fort Wayne.
Whitley County Coroner Randy Dellinger said the men were impacted by low oxygen levels in a hypoxic environment.
Each man died from asphyxia caused by the low-oxygen environment and subsequent drowning. The deaths were ruled accidental.
“The further in they got in, the less air there was and once they got down in the water they drowned,” Dellinger said.
Columbia City Police and fire departments were dispatched to the scene of the utility accident at 464 S. Main St., Tuesday morning. The men were found inside the sewer manhole approximately 20-25 feet below the surface where five feet of water was present.
The Fort Wayne Technical Rescue Team was immediately called and upon their arrival, extricated the three men.
Life-saving procedures were immediately performed by EMTs; however, all three men were declared dead at the scene.
Whitley County Mayor Ryan Daniel issued the following statement: “The City of Columbia City extends our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in a utility accident today, and to their employer. While all the details are unknown at this time, we will be working with all parties to determine ways in which these types of tragedies can be prevented in the future.”
The accident remains under investigation.