FFs Injured In Well Accident Expected to Make Full Recovery
Brian Buck hugs his son, Brandon, at the Liberty Township Fire Department in Selma on Wednesday. Buck’s family and friends met him at the fire station to welcome him home after being in the hospital for several days after he tried to rescue two men from
The Star Press via YellowBrix
June 03, 2010
MUNCIE — Seven days after the critically injured Brian Buck arrived at Ball Memorial Hospital in an ambulance, he left Wednesday in good spirits in a Liberty Township fire truck.
Buck was one of two Liberty Township firefighters injured in a well accident that killed an Anderson plumber and critically injured the plumber’s 19-year-old assistant.
Buck’s colleague, Rick Compton Sr., was released from BMH Friday.
Both men spoke with The Star Press on Wednesday for the first time since the accident.
“The doctor’s saying my lungs are in good shape, and I should make a full recovery,” Buck said by phone interview from his hospital room about an hour before his release.
Plumber Eric Dalton, 40, was inside a 10-foot-deep well pit behind a house at 5009 E. Centennial Ave. on May 26 when he and his assistant, Justin Benson, were overcome by acid fumes. Authorities believe Dalton had been using muriatic acid to free up components stuck down in the well when the dangerous chemical vapors filled the well pit.
The property owner discovered the men unconscious in the well pit about 8:15 p.m. and called 911. First to respond
Compton, 62, a 33-year veteran of Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department, was the first to respond.
He had planned to spend the evening watching his 13-year-old grandson play baseball and was en route to the Muncie Sportsplex when he heard the call across his scanner. Compton dropped his wife off at the ballpark, about a mile from the accident scene, and responded wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
“The report we got was a man trapped in a well. Period,” Compton said.
From above, Compton peered into the dark well and spotted a young man who he later learned was Benson slumped against the ladder, unresponsive. He assumed the 19-year-old had passed out from a lack of oxygen.
“I figured all I had to do was open his airway and he’d take a gasp or something,” Compton said.
After Compton entered the nearly pitch-dark well using the plumber’s ladder, he was confronted with two surprises.
First, Compton could feel himself stepping on a body as he treated Benson and learned that he was dealing with two victims, not one as radio traffic had indicated.
Second, he sensed an odor he thought was sewer gas and yelled to the property owner above.
“I said, ‘I smell sewer gas.’ He said, ‘No, that’s muriatic acid,” Compton recalled.
Knowing the dangers of acid fumes, Compton raced back up the ladder.
This is where Compton’s memory ends.
It picks back up, sort of, sometime later just outside the well pit as a semi-conscious Compton, still suffering from vision loss, overheard emergency responders debate whether to intubate Compton to help him breathe.
Compton assumed he made it out of the well on his own.
He learned later he didn’t.
Before he could summit the ladder, he passed out, falling back into the well and suffering cuts to his shoulder and head that required 13 staples and five stitches.
Compton was also unaware at the time that another firefighter, Brian Buck, responded shortly after him, also entering the well and also passing out.
Buck’s memory, however, is even worse than Compton’s.
He woke up in the hospital from an induced coma three days later frustrated by the fact that he had no clue why he was there.
“To be quite honest with you, I don’t remember any of the accident,” Buck said. Brothers in arms
Buck and Compton were rescued by a combination of Muncie and Liberty Township firefighters, including Compton’s own son, Rick Jr., who pulled the four victims out by hand using harnesses and ropes.
Dalton was pronounced dead that night.
Medical information on Benson’s condition has been unavailable to the media.
Compton’s eyes teared up several times during the interview when he talked about the men who saved him and the men who visited him in the hospital in the days afterward.
“I’ve been a fireman for 33 years,” he said. “So I know most these guys that came out there. It doesn’t matter what department you’re on, we are fellow firefighters, brothers in arms, so to say.”
Buck is on a two-week leave from firefighting and his full-time job as a lineman for C4 Communications.
Compton has taken a 30-day leave from firefighting.
Compton survived combat in Vietnam, suffering a shrapnel wound from a rocket blast. He survived a 25-foot fall while working with the phone company that broke his back. And he has survived countless fires.
He is considering retirement, wondering how long he can push his luck.
But of all people, his wife has told him to think a bit longer before he gives up firefighting. She understands the community needs men like Compton and Buck, and that Compton would probably end up missing firefighting.
“Once you start doing it, I don’t know how you ever get out of it,” Compton said.