Three brothers die of suffocation

Rescuers extract three brothers who suffocated to their deaths inside an underground tank in Cuartero, Capiz on July 24, 2019. (Photos by Cuartero MDRRMO)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

Three brothers died of suffocation inside an underground water tank at Cuartero, Capiz.

The incident happened around 10:30 a.m. of July 24, 2019, as one of the victims tried to clean the water receptacle, found inside the vicinity of Maindang Senior High School at Barangay Maindang, a village 15 kilometers away from Cuartero town proper.

Police Staff Sergeant Edmer Dayalo, Cuartero police investigator, identified the victims as Wilmert Vargas, 15; Neljon Vargas, 19; and Jerson Vargas, 30.

The victims, who were part of a brood of 12, were residents of Barangay Mahanlad, Sapian, Capiz and have been working on a school building project at Mahanlad until their death.

Another worker, Raffy Bellosillo of Ivisan town, survived the incident.

Bellosillo said Wilmert first went inside the tank to clean it.

When he failed to show up, Neljon went down to check on him. But after his two brothers failed to emerge from the tank, he, too, went down to check.

Bellosillo told police investigators that when he saw none of the victims coming out from the tank, he also tried to save them.

But seconds into getting down the hole, he claimed to have inhaled something of chemical-like odor.

As Bellosillo climbed up the ladder, he saw the three victims at the bottom of the tank. One was already slumped on the bottom of the tank while the two were leaning on the side.

Dayalo said the water tank was actually a 7-foot hole in the ground. Its mouth measured 3 meters by 5 meters.

The workers had just opened its tank’s cover when the incident happened.

After 20 minutes, Wilmert went down to purposely clean it.

Nick Roxas, the project supervisor, said they told the workers to clean the area for the scheduled turnover of the K-12 building the following day.

“But he told police investigators that he did not order them to go inside the tank to clean it,” Dayalo said.

If he ordered the tank cleaning, Roxas claimed he would have told the works to open the tank for at least 24 hours before allowing anyone to get inside.

Medics from the Cuartero Emergency Response Team tried to rescue the victim but they were already lifeless after they were extracted from the tank.

Dayalo said they are still investigating if someone will be made liable for what happened to the brothers.

In the meantime, Roxas claimed their company will extend monetary help to the victims’ family. (With a report from Joemarie Billones)