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KEY LARGO (CBSMiami)  —  A firefighter who went in to save three workers who collapsed while working underground in Key Largo is expected to be released from the hospital soon, his family says.

Leonardo Moreno has been a firefighter for eight years. As of Tuesday, he was still in Jackson Memorial Hospital and is expected to be there for another four days.

Family and friends say Moreno is doing better and is no longer in an induced coma.

“Even when he was sedated he was reacting, responding, waking up so we’re hopeful that everything is going to come out great,” said his brother Yoel Moreno.

As for what he did, trying to save the workers stuck underground, friends and family called him ‘selfless.’

“It took a lot of bravery to do what he did,” said Rafael Calante who went down and rescued Moreno after he also collapsed while trying to save the workers. “I just saw him down there unconscious and I knew that he wasn’t going to stay down there.”

“No matter what happens, I am very proud,” said Leonardo’s girlfriend Vanessa Tejada.

The men Moreno tried to save – 24-year-old Robert Wilson, 34-year-old Elway Gray and 49-year-old  Louis O’Keefe died underground Monday

The men were working near Mile Marker 106 after residents complained about smells coming from a drainage manhole, according to deputies.

Investigators say this was a chain reaction. One worker went into the manhole and collapsed because of gasses. A second worker went into rescue him and collapsed as well. The same thing happened to a third worker who tried to help him. The same thing happened to the firefighter who tried to help them. 

Crews worked to free workers who got stuck while on the job Monday morning. (Source: CBS4)

Crews worked to free workers who got stuck while on the job Monday morning. (Source: CBS4)

The men were overwhelmed by a combination of methane and hydrogen sulfide gas coming out of a 15-foot deep hole they had gone into. The levels of oxygen in the manhole were not enough to sustain life. It’s something deputies say is concerning since manholes such as that one should be properly ventilated and it appeared it had ventilation problems.

Three workers were confirmed dead at the scene. Deputies were able to revive Moreno and airlift him to the hospital. 

Residents in the area were evacuated out of precaution but were allowed to return home hours later after tests showed it was safe for them to do so.

The sheriff’s office said the three employees who died were working for Douglas N. Higgins doing underground work as part of street repairs. CBS4 reached out to the Douglas N. Higgins company in Palm Beach Gardens for a statement but, so far, has not heard from the company.

The Monroe County sheriff’s office and officials with OSHA, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are investigating. 

As for Moreno, his family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with his medical bill expenses.

Comments (2)
  1. I HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING FROM the beginning.FROM ANOTHER ARTICLE

    One by one, 3 utility workers descended into a manhole. One by one, they died.
    By Samantha Schmidt January 18 at 6:57 AM, it’s now  18 January 2017, 6:19pm CT 

    RIP all deceased

    The men worked for private construction contractor Douglas N. Higgins and were responding to neighbor complaints of sewage backup in the area, Ramsay said. They were identified as 34-year-old Elway Gray of Fort Lauderdale, 49-year-old Louis O’Keefe of Little Torch Key and 24-year-old Robert Wilson of Summerland Key.

    MY THOUGHTS & PRAYERS ARE WITH ALL INVOLVED 

    Thanks to the HEROISM OF ALL THESE BRAVE PRECIOUS FIRST RESPONDERS NO MORE WERE HARMED

    please accept my condolences in the loss of these Precious First Responders

    MY THOUGHTS & PRAYERS ARE WITH. LEONARDO MORENO

    GOD BE WITH ALL AND ALL AROUND YAL