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I Had to Get Him Out of There': Workers Describe Saving Colleague Who Fell into Vat of Nitric Acid

I Had to Get Him Out of There': Workers Describe Saving Colleague Who Fell into Vat of Nitric Acid

“In our trade we stick together. It’s a serious business."

CLIFTON, N.J. (The Blaze/AP) — A four New Jersey roofers helped save a co-worker from a vat of nitric acid solution Monday after he had fallen 40 feet through a roof and into the tank, fire officials said.

Rob Nuckols, 51, was working on the ground floor Monday morning at Swepco Tube LLC when his colleague Martin Davis plunged into the vat of diluted acid and became fully submerged, officials said.

It was originally reported that the Clifton Fire Chief said Nuckols jumped into the vat and was waist-high while he and three others pulled Davis out, according to The Record of Woodland Park. But a relative of Nuckols later said he did not jump into the tank. The vat contained a 40 to 70 percent nitric acid solution used for cleaning metal tubing.

Rescue workers arrived after five minutes, cut Davis out of his clothes and sprayed him with water to limit burns, Colavitti said. Nuckols had already rinsed himself off.

Here you can see medics rush Davis on a stretcher to a waiting helicopter that would take him to the hospital (via Huffington Post):

Here's more from The Record on the incident:

Nuckols told firefighters after the ordeal: “I had to get him out of there.”


The three other roofers were identified as Rob Fulton, 24; Joe Dabkowski, 45; and William Walker, who is in his 20s. Authorities did not have the rescuers’ hometowns. The men were working for Gar Con Enterprises, based in Flemington. It was the first day of the roof replacement job at Swepco, Colavitti said.

“It takes a lot of courage” Colavitti said of the rescuers’ actions.

When he was rescued, Davis was red and seemed to be in shock. “He was incoherent,” Colavitti said.

Davis is in critical condition with a broken rib, punctured lung, and burns on his legs and side, a relative said.

Nuckols was treated for burns on his legs and abdomen. The three other roofers were taken to hospitals but there was no sign that they were seriously injured.

The Record reports one of the roofers saying it was part of their "code of ethics" that called upon them to help their fell0w co-worker ou, even with the risk of the acid, which he also said he didn't think would be corrosive enough to kill anyone:

“In our trade we stick together. It’s a serious business. You’ll die out there. You’ve got your family to feed and you have got to protect each other,” [Jon Davis, Martin's brother,] said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it was investigating and looking into both companies. An employee at Swepco said the company had no comment, and Gar Con did not return calls.

The Record reports Colavitti saying the contractor did not have a building permit to do the work. If this is found to be the case during the investigation, the company could face a $2,000 fine.

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