Coroner identifies men who died at Big Rivers in Henderson

Coroner identifies men who died at Big Rivers in Henderson
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 2:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Henderson dispatch confirmed Tuesday afternoon that rescue crews were working to help two people who fell into what was described as a manhole at Big Rivers Green Plant.

Donna Stinnett with the City of Henderson announced Tuesday evening that those two people died.

The Henderson County Coroner identified the men as Eric Williams, 34, of Henderson County, and Phillip Hill, 39, of Muhlenberg County.

Big Rivers Electric Corporation released more information in a press release saying that the hole was actually a drainage collection system.

Big Rivers also said in the release that one of the people involved was believed to be a Big Rivers employee while the other was an employee of their contractor.

Stinnett said crews were on the scene for hours trying to remove them from the drainage system.

Officials said there were toxic fumes in the hole and conditions were cramped. They said that made recovering the pair difficult.

Stinnett said crews from Henderson, Owensboro and Evansville were all on scene, with hazmat specialists and rope rescue personnel on standby to get them free.

It is unknown at this time how the two people involved died.

It is also unknown how they fell into the hole.

Big Rivers president and CEO Bob Berry says the loss is devastating.

“Today represents a devastating loss of life for the Big Rivers family, and our hearts and prayers are with the families of both victims tonight,” said Berry. “Big Rivers will be working with the proper regulatory authorities, our employees, local responders, and safety officials as the investigation continues.”

Officials said a coroner’s report is expected to be released at a later time.

On Thursday, 14 News spoke with Rob Hensley, who’s Williams’ brother-in-law.

Hensley said the father of two was always working to help the people around him.

“There’s not a person that doesn’t come by that Eric doesn’t want to take hunting or help,” he said.

Hensley said they were shocked by his death, but not surprised to learn that Williams likely died a hero.

He said that Williams worked for Charah, and after the incident, his bosses came by to talk to the family. They explained that after Hill had fallen in the hole, Williams went up to try to get him out.

Hensley said they believe the fumes got to Williams, and he fell in.

“I’m a firefighter of 15 years years, and I have done a lot of firefighting – to me, he’s the greatest hero,” Hensley said. “To lay his life down for somebody else, unprotected, he’s the hero in this.”

Hensley says they’re working to schedule his funeral, but they’re also looking for more answers.

We are working to learn more and will update this story as it develops.

You can read Big Rivers’ full statement below.

Two people have died following an incident at Big Rivers Electric Corporation’s Sebree Station. The exact details of what happened are unknown, but it is believed that a Big Rivers employee and an employee of our contractor were killed after falling into a drainage collection system on the Sebree Station property. Recovery crews and local officials were called to Sebree Station early Tuesday afternoon and remained on-site through the evening to aid in rescue attempts and the initial investigation. Big Rivers and their contractor have been in contact and are fully supporting the families of both victims.

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