3 Florida hog hunters found dead after trying to save dog from underground cistern in Bastrop County

On August 9, 2023, at approximately 1:00AM, the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report that 3 persons were trapped in a hole in the ground in the 300 block of New Trails, which was a corn field in northern Bastrop County.

First Responders found what appeared to be an underground cistern that was partially filled with water. There were strong fumes, similar to those of a septic tank, coming from the cistern. First Responders observed no signs of life.

Initial reports indicated that a hunting party of 3 males and 1 female ended up on foot in a corn field 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 2 other members of the party entered the cistern to possibly rescue the first person, while a 4th member of the party went to his truck to summon assistance and call 911.

The water level of the cistern was far below the small opening of the cistern, which was at ground level, preventing anyone from escaping from the cistern, resulting in the deaths of 2 males and one female. All 3 of the decedents were Florida residents, who are identified below. The dog didn’t survive either.

The fumes, the stagnant water, and the instability of the cistern hampered recovery efforts and prevented First Responders from initially climbing into the man-made structure.

A decision was made to ventilate the cistern by removing the hydrogen sulfide gas and then removing the water. Still, the integrity of the structure was in question. 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.

After the fumes and water were removed from the cistern, and the air was stabilized, a small drone was deployed inside the cistern to check the integrity of the walls. It was decided to lower someone into the cistern to make the recovery.

Investigator D. Newman, with the Sheriff’s Office volunteered for the assignment. With the support of the Elgin Fire Department and the City of Elgin Utility crews, the Investigator was successfully lowered into the hole, recovering all 3 victims and the dog. The recovery effort was completed at approximately 7:30 PM.

Investigation of the events that led up to the individuals being in the cistern is ongoing in order to confirm the reporting of the initial details. An autopsy was ordered and the bodies were taken to the medical examiner’s office by a local funeral home. The funeral home also took the dog.

The next of kin has been noticed and the victims were identified as:

  • Delvys Garcia, 37 yoa
  • Denise Martinez, 26 yoa
  • Noel Vigil-Benitez, 45 yoa.
Delvys Garcia
Denise Martinez
Noel Vigil-Benitez

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