Truck Driver Dies inside Storage Tank

Officials at G.M. Taylor Seed Company in Georgetown say a truck driver who suffered from oxygen depravation inside an underground storage tank this week has died.

Fifty-six-year-old Vernon Schmidt was working inside a molasses storage tank when he collapsed on a platform in the tank Tuesday morning.

He was removed from life support Wednesday night at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Lexington.The Illinois native was delivering molasses to the seed company and apparently went into the tank to remove a cap from a hose sothe molasses would pour out.

Company manager Tracy Hilander got a rope around Schmidt and with the help of other workers, pulled him from the tank. The fermenting molasses is mixed with horse feed to give the grain a sweeter taste.

The fermentation in the enclosed pit also creates ethyl alcohol vapors that deprive the space of oxygen. Oxygen levels inside the two-thousand-gallon tank were measured at less than a fifth of what humans need to breathe.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)