ROCKLAND – Two herring fishermen were hospitalized after gas from decaying fish left one unconscious and the second weak from the fumes.

Hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas, built up in the ship’s holding tank after the crew of the Starlight had unloaded herring, said Rockland Assistant Fire Chief Adam Miceli.

The gas is created by decaying organic matter.

One man went down into the empty fish hold, fell off a ladder and lay unconscious.

A second man went down into the hold to try to help, but quickly became weak and began coughing because of the fumes, Miceli said.

A third crewmen who saw what happened put on breathing apparatus and grabbed another one to assist the coughing man. The crew then tied a rope to the unconscious man and pulled him up to the deck just as rescuers arrived.

“It made a huge difference that the crew was able to help,” Miceli said.

The two sickened men were taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. The unconscious man was immediately taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The identities of the men were not released.

Miceli said a rotting egg odor was strong and fire department equipment registered dangerous gas levels.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com