SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A Texas Parks and Wildlife employee working in San Marcos likely died from carbon monoxide poisoning on Tuesday, according to San Marcos police.
Police and firefighters responded to the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery just before 4 p.m. where they found Rob Schmid dead.
“I think a lot of it had to do with some weather environment that was going on,” said San Marcos Fire Marshal Kenneth Bell. “The wind was blowing to such a point where natural ventilation couldn’t occur from the space.”
Schmid, who manages the hatchery, was working in a chamber approximately 15 feet underground and was operating a gasoline-powered pump. Air monitoring tests revealed carbon monoxide levels were five times the permissible exposure limit, Bell said.
An autopsy will confirm the official cause of death. It took rescue workers more than an hour to remove Schmid from the chamber after they found him dead.
Local authorities as well as Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens are assisting in the investigation.
Second man hospitalized after being overcome by carbon monoxide
Just hours later, around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Bell showed up to a second location. Someone was suffering carbon monoxide poisoning at a shopping center on Wonder World Drive. That unit now has a “Stop Work Notice” on the window, issued by the fire marshal. A man was working inside with machinery to cut concrete, when he was overcome with carbon monoxide.
In both cases, officials say the men were working in small, closed-in spaces with poor ventilation, and the carbon monoxide levels were toxic. Bell says sites like these are not required to have a CO detector device.
“The reason why it ‘never happens’ is because they’ve gotten lucky many times using this type of equipment,” Bell said.
He’s is calling for awareness, saying it is a rare, but silent, killer.
“You know, in my career here in 25 years, I can count on one hand how many of these incidences where people have gotten to the point where they were poisoned by CO, and in one night, I’ve doubled it,” said Bell.
The man poisoned at the construction site was transferred to University Hospital in San Antonio where he was undergoing treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. His condition was unknown.
“Detection measurements were well above the OSHA standards for exposure to such a gas,” Bell said, “almost three times the maximum level authorized.”
A neighboring store also had be ventilated after officials found it was filled with the gas. Fortunately, the incident happened in the overnight hours, so no one was in that business.