2004-07-17 05:23:11 UTC
Lancaster earned good money going places most people dread, his family said.
A former Marine, Lancaster, 67, joked about his gritty job but never
complained about the work that supported his wife and three sons.
The Thonotosassa man died at Tampa General Hospital at 9:20 p.m. Monday
after becoming trapped in an underground tank at Acorn Trace Apartments,
11115 N. Nebraska Ave., slipping neck-deep into sewage, officials said.
``It's pretty hard to deal with,'' his son, Troy Lancaster, 29, a St.
Petersburg computer engineer, said Tuesday through sobs. ``You kind of hope
for dignity at the end.''
The Tampa office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans
to investigate his death, acting area director Brian Hennessy said.
OSHA's standards for confined spaces such as sewer systems require the area
to be evaluated for hazards before an employee enters.
Tampa Fire Rescue officials said Lancaster was wearing rubber boots about
1:15 p.m. when he entered the tank, which is about 4 feet wide and 12 feet
deep and pumps sewage to the city's sewer lines.
He had retired about a year ago but went to work with his youngest son,
Travis, 27, who was taking over the business, Dale Lancaster Inc. ``I don't
think he realized his limits had changed,'' Troy Lancaster said.
He became disoriented and yelled for help, Troy Lancaster said, possibly
because of the heat in the sweltering tank and methane, which deprives the
heart and brain of oxygen.
``My father had always warned me about methane,'' he said. ``He used to say,
`If you get to where you're feeling lightheaded, get out.' ''
A co-worker passed the man a ladder and tried to grab his hands, but they
were slippery and he slid farther into the sewage, Troy Lancaster said. At
some point, he inhaled and ingested the material, he said.
Firefighters gave him oxygen and pulled him from the tank, Capt. Tracy
Walker said. The rescue took about 25 minutes.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
A Wisconsin native, Dale Lancaster was an outdoorsman. ``His endurance was
amazing,'' Troy Lancaster said. ``At nearly 70, he could still run circles
He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary last week and was expecting his
sixth grandchild, his son said.
He loved to dig for gold in the mountains of Georgia.
``He had about $30 worth of gold that he spent $5,000 getting,'' Troy
Lancaster said. ``He was extremely proud of that.''