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September 28, 2011

Autopsies may help pinpoint what killed two workers found in Maine tank

There is no indication of foul play, and there were no witnesses.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — Investigators are trying to determine what happened to two workers who were found dead inside a hotel's sewage holding tank Tuesday.

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Emergency response vehicles sit at the scene in Kennebunkport where the bodies of two workers were found Tuesday in a sewage holding tank at The Lodge at Turbats Creek. The men worked for Stevens Electric and Pump Services of Monmouth.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford said gas fumes or an equipment problem could have caused the men’s deaths, “we just don’t know.”

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Richard Kemp, 70, of Monmouth, and Winfield Studley, 58, of Windsor, were employees of Stevens Electric and Pump Services of Monmouth and were servicing a pump Tuesday in the tank at The Lodge at Turbats Creek in Kennebunkport.

Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford said the two were working near an employee from Kennebunk-based Nest and Sons, which was pumping out the underground tank. The Nest and Sons employee left with a load of sewage, and when he returned 30 to 45 minutes later, the men were not there.

A lodge employee reported the men missing to police at 11 a.m., noting that their truck was still parked at the hotel.

After sewage pumping resumed, one man's body bobbed to the surface of the tank, which was about 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, and 9 feet deep. A search of the tank then led to the discovery of the other man's body.

"There were no witnesses. Nobody saw anything," Sanford said. "We don't even know what caused their deaths.

"It could be equipment malfunction. There can be gas fumes inside that can kill you. Somebody could fall in. We just don't know," Sanford said. There was no indication of foul play, he said.

The state medical examiner is scheduled to perform an autopsy.

Karen Billups, assistant area director for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said septic tanks are supposed to be checked for oxygen deficiency, but it wasn't clear if such a check was performed Tuesday.

The deaths hit hard in the men's hometowns.

Longtime Monmouth Public Works Director Herbert Whittier said Kemp graduated from Monmouth Academy in 1960. Whittier said he and Kemp had been friendly since childhood.

"He was a very nice guy," Whittier said. "I don't think he had an enemy in the world."

Studley worked for the Augusta Sanitary District for a number of years as a supervisor in charge of maintenance of pump stations, said Dale Glidden, who retired as general manager of the Augusta water and sanitary districts. Studley left the district to join Stevens Electric and Pump Service in 2006.

Danyl Hoague, of China, was a few years behind Studley in high school and has been friends with him most of his life.

"He was just a likable guy. He was a funny guy," Hoague said. "I can't get over it."

An OSHA investigator was at the scene Wednesday, and the federal agency planned to send additional personnel to inspect the tank.

Kemp was hired by Stevens Electric and Pump Services in 2002 and had more than 20 years of experience in the business. Studley had worked in the business for 17 years, according to the company's website.

"We are deeply saddened by the deaths of our friends and co-workers, Richard Kemp and Winfield Studley," company owner Tim Stevens said in a prepared statement Tuesday evening. "At this point, we can't be certain about what happened today. It's a tragedy for two families, two communities and everyone who knew Dick and Win. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and many friends. It's a terrible day for many people."

Stevens said his company is cooperating with OSHA and other agencies, but it wouldn't be releasing further information about the incident at this time.

 

Kennebec Journal staff writers Betty Adams and Craig Crosby contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@pressherald.com

 

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