The first hunter jumped into the cistern to rescue a dog and the other two followed
Three hog hunters trying to rescue a dog and then each other died in a water-filled cistern on a farm in Bastrop County, Texas.
According to CBS Austin, the dog was the first one to fall into the cistern.
“It appears that they were out hog hunting,” Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook said. “One of the dogs escaped from the truck and fell into the cistern. Once the dog fell into the cistern, it appears that one of the hunters dove in or jumped in the cistern.
“He goes in. The water level is about 8-feet below the ground. So now he is in a hole, 8-feet below, in water that we determined had hydrogen sulfide gas in it,” Cook said.
According to the sheriff, two of the hunter’s friends jumped in to rescue him and the dog.
“We are speculating that the hydrogen sulfide gas overcame them, and they were not able to maintain any type of buoyancy on top of the water. Therefore, they sank underneath,” Cook said.
The three hunters, who were from Florida, were identified as 26-year-old Denise Martinez, 37-year-old Delvys Garcia, and 45-year-old Noel Vigil-Benitez.
BCSO says the cistern’s water level was far below its small ground-level opening, preventing an escape.
The fourth member of the hunting party, a Bastrop County man from Red Rock, called 911.
BCSO says recovery efforts were delayed due to the fumes, stagnant water, and the instability of the cistern. A small drone checked the integrity of the walls once the fumes and water were removed from the cistern and the air stabilized.
BCSO investigator David Newman volunteered to recover the bodies and the dog. The recovery was successful with the support of the Elgin Fire Department and the City of Elgin utility crews.
The question remains whether or not the cistern should have been covered.
“By law they are required to be covered if they have over a certain opening. This did not have a cover on it,” Cook said.
According to state law, any cistern measuring at least 10-feet deep and between 10 inches and 6 feet in diameter must be entirely covered. The sheriff says the hole in the ground measured 4 feet in diameter.
“There was no cover anywhere around. This was just an open hole in the middle of a cornfield,” Cook said.
“There is some indication the landowner may be recently deceased. That is part of the investigation,” Cook said.
Autopsies will help verify exactly what happened to the three hunters once they entered the cistern.
Watch all the latest video episodes