PLUMB­ING AP­PREN­TICE’S DEATH WAS ‘TRAGIC LOSS’

Boss can’t ex­plain why sewer line fix turned into tragedy.

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Alexan­dra Seltzer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Staff re­searcher Me­lanie Mena con­trib­uted to this story. aseltzer@pbpost.com Twit­ter: @alexseltzer

John Dil­lon IV spent his days work­ing at The Plumb- ing Ex­perts in Del­ray Beach and his nights at school study­ing his trade.

Dil­lon, 27, had been with the com­pany only two years when he was killed Fri­day af­ter­noon in a “freak ac­ci­dent” at the Sun Val­ley East re­tire­ment com­mu­nity west of Boyn­ton Beach, said the com­pany’s owner, Clem Winke.

Dil­lon was one of four men work­ing to re­pair a bro­ken storm sewer line that had caused a small sink­hole. The crew tried plug­ging a pipe with an 18-inch air bag to stop wa­ter from the com­mu­nity lake from com­ing into the 8-foot-wide by 3-foot­deep hole.

But the air bag ex­ploded, killing him.

Three days later, Winke still doesn’t know what went wrong.

“I wasn’t there, but I think once the air bag burst then the wa­ter be­hind it pushed the air bag out of the pipe and hit John,” said Winke, whose com­pany has been in busi­ness for 42 years.

Winke said he spent Fri­day talk­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion and has met with Dil­lon’s fam­ily.

“We’ve been very open and trans­par­ent,” he said.

Winke said he’s never heard of this hap­pen­ing and has never had an em­ployee in­jured in a ma­jor ac­ci­dent.

When reached by phone, Dil­lon’s mother, Lynda Scar­berry Dil­lon, de­clined to com­ment.

“It’s a real tragic loss here at the com­pany,” Winke said. “Every­body is very sad. A lot of peo­ple were cry­ing. He was very well-liked by every­body and a great guy.”

Dil­lon of Fort Laud­erdale was in the plumb­ing ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram, which lasts four years. As part of that, he went to school two nights a week to learn the trade and worked dur­ing the day. He re­cently had been pro­moted to ser­vice plumber and had his own truck.

The ex­plo­sion hap­pened just be­fore 2 p.m. Fri­day on Pavarotti Ter­race just north of Boyn­ton Beach Boule­vard be­tween Mil­i­tary Trail and Jog Road. Dil­lon died at the scene. Two other work­ers were treated for in­juries but didn’t have to go to the hospi­tal, said Palm Beach County Fire Res­cue Capt. Al­bert Bor­roto.

Jean Manuel, 78, who lives in Sun Val­ley East, said she heard the ex­plo­sion.

“I’m right in front of it,” she said. “They were stand­ing in my yard.”

Manuel said there was a small caved-in part of the street where it wouldn’t be safe to drive so com­mu­nity lead­ers put cones around it. She said she hadn’t seen any­one work on the hole Mon­day morn­ing.

Winke said the air bag pro­ce­dure is stan­dard and the only way to fix some­thing that’s un­der wa­ter.

“You have to stop the wa­ter from com­ing in,” he said.

Winke said the crew was work­ing with rented equip­ment and used the air bag to stop wa­ter from the lake from en­ter­ing the pipe and fill­ing the hole. They were also us­ing a pump to get the wa­ter out but the ground wa­ter was com­ing in faster than the pump could pump it out. They turned to the air bag pro­ce­dure to stop the wa­ter from com­ing in. Then the pump would be able to work.

“I don’t know why it burst,” he said.

Source: map­s4news.com/©HERE STAFF

John Dil­lon IV had been with The Plumb­ing Ex­perts for two years.

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