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ROCKLAND, Maine — Two men working dockside on a fishing boat were taken to the hospital Friday afternoon after apparently being overcome by poisonous gas created by rotting fish.
The incident occurred shortly after noon aboard the 89-foot O’Hara Corporation fishing vessel Starlight which was tied up at a dock on the waterfront off Front Street in Rockland.
According to Assistant Rockland Fire Chief Adam Miceli, one crewmember of the vessel was working in the hold of the boat where fish were located and apparently became overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas created by the rotting fish. The man collapsed and fell an undetermined distance to the bottom of the storage area.
Hydrogen sulfide gas is heavier than air and can build up enough in an enclosed area to poison or suffocate someone, according to Rockland Fire Chief Charles Jordan Jr.
A second crew member witnessed the first man fall and went down into the storage area to assist. He too became overcome by the gas.
Other crew members on deck witnessed what happened and suspected that a gas was involved, Miceli said. Another worker put on an air tank and mask and carried a second tank and mask below deck which he used on the second victim before helping carry him to the deck. The worker then went below again, put the mask on the first victim and tied a rope around him. Three crew members on deck then pulled the victim out of the storage area.
“They did a heck of a job. They had the people extricated when we got there. That’s pretty darn good,” Jordan said.
The first victim to fall into the hold was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockland and was then expected to be flown to another hospital by a LifeFlight helicopter. The second victim was taken to Pen Bay in less serious condition. The second man, approximately 50-years-old, was conscious when pulled on deck, but the younger man who collapsed initially still was not conscious when rescue personnel arrived.
The herring trawler, which fishes the Maine and New Hampshire waters, was docked where the O’Hara bait storage complex is located.
A message left Friday afternoon with the O’Hara Corporation office was not immediately returned.