3 people, dog die after falling into cistern in Texas cornfield

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas – Three people and a dog died earlier this week after getting trapped in a cistern in Bastrop County.

The victims have been identified as Florida residents Delvys Garcia, 37, Denise Martinez, 26 and Noel Vigil-Benitez, 45.

According to the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a call around 1 a.m. Wednesday in the 300 block of New Trails after a witness reported that three people were trapped in a hole in the ground.

First responders arrived at the scene and found what appeared to be an underground cistern that was partially filled with water.

BCSO said in a press release that there were also strong fumes, similar to those of a sceptic tank, coming from the cistern.

Deputies said a hunting party of three males and one female ended up in a cornfield when one of their dogs fell into the cistern.

“One of the members of the hunting party ended up in the cistern, possibly attempting to rescue the dog. It appears that two other members of the party entered the cistern to possibly rescue the first person, while a fourth member of the party went to his truck to summon assistance and call 911,” according to the press release.

Deputies said the water level was far below the small opening of the cistern, which was at ground level, and prevented anyone from escaping, resulting in the deaths of the three people. The dog also didn’t survive.

According to BCSO, the fumes, stagnant water, and the instability of the cistern hampered recovery efforts and a decision was made to ventilate the cistern by removing the water and hydrogen sulfide gas.

“Efforts were made to dig beside the structure to allow access from the side at a level near where the 3 bodies had been located, but these efforts were soon abandoned since breaching the side would weaken the walls and make entry unsafe,” the press release states.

First responder D. Newman with BCSO then volunteered to be lowered into the cistern to recover the bodies after the fumes and water had been removed.

He was able to recover all the victims and the dog by 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

An investigation of the events that led up to the victims being in the cistern is ongoing and an autopsy has been ordered for all the victims.

BCSO provided photos of Martinez and Vigil-Benitez. A photo of Garcia was not yet available.

Copyright 2023 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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