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3 Hog Hunters and Their Dog Die in Gas-Filled Cistern Left Uncovered in Texas

A night of hog hunting turned into a terrible tragedy for three hunters from Florida.

Three Florida hog hunters died on August 9 after trying to rescue their dog from an uncovered cistern that contained water and hydrogen sulfide gas in Texas, according to The Associated Press.

The three Florida hunters, plus a local hog hunter from Texas who was hosting the hunt, were preparing for a night of hog hunting outside Austin. As they were getting ready, their dog escaped the vehicle. The hunters tracked the dog using a GPS collar and found that it had fallen into the open water cistern.

One of the hunters tried to rescue the dog by jumping into the cistern. The two others removed some clothing before also jumping in to attempt to rescue both man and dog. Sadly, all three died, as well as the dog.

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The surviving Texan hunter reported the incident to local authorities at 1 a.m.

According to Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook, cisterns are commonly used as underground water reservoirs in rural areas. Cook states that cisterns are typically covered, and this particular one was essentially "a hole in the middle of a cornfield."

This cistern was roughly 4 feet wide and contained 8 feet of water. The water level was 6 feet below the top of the cistern, making it impossible to climb out without assistance.

There were also high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas, which occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, and oil and gas wells. Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air and stays low to the ground, which is why wasn't ventilating naturally from the cistern.

Authorities believe that the three rescuers and the dog were overcome by the toxic fumes. Hydrogen sulfide could have also affected the buoyancy of the water, making it more difficult for the victims to float.

The bodies of two men and a woman, as well as the dog, were pulled from the cistern, located in a cornfield outside of Austin. They were identified as Delvys Garcia, 37, Noel Vigil-Benitez, 45, and Denise Martinez, 26.

"It wasn't long in the tank before they went to the bottom," Cook said.

Six diving teams declined to enter the cistern after the accident, citing concerns about the hydrogen sulfide.

Authorities finally decided to pump out the water and ventilate the gas. They then flew a drone into the cistern to check the integrity of the walls. A deputy went into the hole three separate times to recover the three bodies and the dog. The bodies were then sent to the Travis County medical examiner's office.

The cistern also contained the bodies of decaying animals that had previously fallen in.

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