California Welder Dies In Drainage Pipe Fire

A California construction worker was killed last month when a welding torch set the clothes he wore on fire and he burned to death, reports say.

While working inside a steel drainage pipe at a construction site, the workman reportedly ignited his clothes with the torch. The accident, which happened near a popular tourist spot at Highway 29 in Napa, California, trapped the man inside the pipe, where he burned to death, say reports from the Napa Fire Department.

The worker, whose name was not released at the time of the accident, had been about 40 feet inside the large 24-inch pipe with an active acetylene torch.

Although the man cried out once the fire started, there was little any of the other workers could do. A second employee attempted to retrieve a fire extinguisher, but he could not squeeze back out of the pipe and get back in time to be of any help, reports say.

Apparently, according to Napa fire officials, crawling into the pipe was simple enough, but once inside, it was impossible to turn around. The second worker had to back some 35 feet out then squeeze back into the pipe - which was by then filled with smoke, with the extinguisher. Realizing the situation was impossible, the trapped man's partner backed out of the pipe and called 911.

Although the Napa Fire Department was on the scene in four minutes, it still took time to determine the best way to get to the man, who was actually beneath Highway 29. Eventually firefighters rigged up long wooden poles with a hook, then pulled the man out. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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