Real Life Accident: Five Deaths In A Tank

A ‘largo’ pontoon was beached at an isolated location for repairs. At one point the person in charge of the pontoon entered a compartment approximately 5 metres deep; there were no checks on the air quality of that compartment before entry. Within a very short time after entering this tank he became unconscious and fell, face down, onto the plates below. One of the two co-workers that had remained outside attempted a rescue and was also rendered unconscious after entering the tank. A third worker then entered the tank and also succumbed.

Seeing the commotion and wanting to help, a man on the beach also entered the space to carry out a rescue and he too became unconscious. In short succession two others entered the tank but also succumbed. After more than an hour a successful rescue attempt was made and all bodies were removed. Resuscitation was attempted at length but of the six who entered the compartment, there was only one survivor.

Ballast Tank
Image for Representation Purpose only

Lessons learned

  • A false sense of security may have been acquired by the person in charge as he had entered other tanks earlier without negative consequences.
  • Never enter a confined space without first testing the atmosphere from top to bottom.
  • Always wear a portable four-gas detector while in a confined space, even once it has passed the initial testing prior to entry.
  • Confined space training and practice is essential in order to prevent tragedies such as the above.


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  1. If the barge was carrying out Repairs, the Safety officer normally grant permission to enter the Compartment, now a days in the absence of Safety Officer, the Captain will Issue entry into confined space signed by him/Officer in charge as Supervisor, this form can be located in the ISM Folder & kept for 2yrs for surveyor Inspections

  2. If this is the same accident I believe it was in New Westminster BC Canada the las person into the tank was a fire fighter to boot. I have worked on the barge since and even spent the night on it. It was very eery to say the least

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