This story originally appeared on Oct. 10, 1950, in the Winona Republican-Herald, a predecessor of the Winona Daily News.
Two city workmen met death in manhole No. 9 in the Glen View addition interceptor sewer line this morning. It was the same hole in which James Leicht, 13, died September 9. Victims today were:
Arthur Thurley, Jr., 30, 602 Vz East Fourth Street.
Robert Kramer, 27, 565 West Fourth Street.
Both were employees of the city engineering department and were inspecting the sewer line, The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. and as yet no definite cause of death of either man has been determined.
This is what happened:
Kramer, a part-time employee of the engineering department as a chainman, was making measurements of depths of manholes in the last stages of the interceptor line preparatory to the laying of the last 290 feet of the sewer.
Earlier this morning, Kramer had made a measurement of the depth of manhole No. 8 and was proceeding to No. 9 for measurements to determine the elevation between the two manholes where the sewer line is to be laid.
Ironically, No. 9 — which is not connected to a sewer line as yet — is the same one in which James Gardiner Leicht, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Leicht of West Burns Valley, plunged to his death little more than a month ago.
When he prepared to make the measurement of manhole No. 9, Kramer was accompanied by Thurley, who serves as city sewer inspector; Ralph Leininger, 600 Main Street, draftsman and instrument man with the engineering department, and Victor Miller, 413 Kansas Street, another engineering department employee who serves as rodman.
Kramer, carrying his measuring stick, descended into the 23-foof manhole which is lined with steps affording access to the bottom.
His fellow employees said that Kramer walked quickly down the steps and then paused about five feet above the level of water which covers the bottom of the manhole to a depth of about three feet.
“When I saw him stop, I yelled down and asked ‘Did you catch your leg, Bob?’” Leininger explained.
The other engineering department employees said that Kramer did not answer this query. A moment later he gasped and was seen tumbling into the water at the bottom of the manhole.
Thurley immediately went down into the shaft and pulled Kramer out of the water. Standing on a rung several feet above the water level, Thurley held Kramer out of the water for a few moments and then shouted to his companions, “You’d better get a rope down here right away.”
Plunges Into Water
Leininger ran to secure a rope from a sewer crew that was working nearby, but moments after he left, Thurley slipped off the step on which he was standing and plunged into the water with Kramer.
The next person to attempt the rescue was 22-year-old Kenneth Boltz, Sugar Loaf, another member of the sewer crew. Boltz, employed by the contracting company installing the sewer, went into the sewer and had just reached Thurley’s body when he collapsed.
While Leininger ran to a nearby home to call the fire department and call a rescue squad, a second member of the sewer crew, Kenneth Junghans, 38, 4255 West Sixth Street, Goodview, descended into the manhole in an effort to rescue the three others.
Near collapse himself, Junghans was assisted in placing a rope around Boltz’ body by Sylvester Modjeski, 576 East Sarnia Street, of the sewer crew. Volunteer rescuers manned the rope at the outside of the manhole and Boltz and Junghans were assisted to the ground level. Modjeski managed to walk out of the sewer with little assistance.
Taken to Clinic
Both Junghans and Boltz were taken immediately to a clinic here for treatment. Junghans was released from the clinic after being examined by physicians while Boltz was taken to the Winona General hospital for further treatment.
Meanwhile, the fire department rescue squad, members of the Winona police department and the Winona county sheriff’s office arrived at the scene of the accident.
Junghans and Modjeski, before leaving the manhole, had managed to put a rope around Thurley and he was pulled out of the shaft.
A fire department resuscitator was immediately put into use in an unsuccessful effort to revive Thurley.
Ian Armstrong, a member of the fire department rescue squad, donned a gas mask and went into the manhole to secure a rope around Kramer’s body.
With police and other volunteer rescuers assisting, Kramer was pulled to the surface and a second resuscitator was used with no avail to revive him.
The resuscitator was used for 42 minutes on Thurley and 30 minutes on Kramer before Acting County Coroner John Tweedy pronounced each dead.
An investigation to determine the exact cause of death was begun this afternoon. Most of those at the scene of the accident expressed belief that a gas or lack of oxygen had been responsible for the collapse of the two men.
Modjeski, whose descent into the shaft assisted in the rescue of Junghans and Boltz, said that he detected an odor as soon as he went into the manhole. “It was terrible,” Modjeski declared, “and something you just can’t explain. It wasn’t so much a smell, really. It just kind of bit into your lungs.
“Everything tastes salty even now,” Modjeski said a few minutes after he had emerged from the manhole.
“I still don’t know how I was able to hang on,” he continued. “I guess it was just that — I just hung on.”
City Attorney Harold Streater visited the accident scene at 1 p.m. this afternoon to participate in the investigation.
Thurley, who was 30 years old, is survived by his wife, the former Delores Risser, and two children, Susan and Arthur. Susan will be four-years-old tomorrow, while Arthur is eight months. Other survivors are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Thurley, 659 East King Street; three brothers, Albert of Milwaukee, and Fred and Bob of Winona, and three sisters, Mrs. Frank (Elsie) Dorsch, and Mrs. Woodrow (Louise) Livingstone of Winona, and Mrs. Ruth Gottschalk, Rochester. He was a graduate of Winona Senior High, school and attended the teachers college here.
Kramer, 27, was born May 28, 1923, in Winona. He is survived by his wife, Corrine; a three-year-old daughter, Patti, and his mother, Mrs. Herman Prigge, 565 West Fourth Street.